Stealing the Spotlight

You worked incredibly hard on the project, pouring your very best into every detail. You dotted every i and crossed every last t to ensure a successful outcome. Your fingerprints and personal touch are splashed all over the project; anyone could clearly see that you did all the work! But in the grand finale when the house lights went down and the spotlight shone brightly, a colleague stepped in from the shadows to take credit for it all. One spotlight earned yet stolen.

When Jesus called us as His disciples to deny ourselves, He knew that sometimes the cost would be physical, like enduring a beating or going without food or shelter. He also knew that sometimes the cost would be to our egos. If we fail to look at these pride-busting situations with our spiritual eyes, then we won’t recognize these opportunities to deny ourselves for Jesus’ sake and our flesh will win.

Dealing with relationship problems? Ask God to teach you how to deny yourself in every situation and pick up a cross to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Changes in My Plans

The way forward railway

Less than six months in, I knew the 2-year commitment I signed up for was about to look drastically different than my previous expectations. I moved to the Middle East, with a team I was going to walk alongside and a community that was welcoming me.

The day I found out my supervisors were no longer going to be the leaders of our team, it was clear from this point forward, the next year and a half was about to look very different than what I had in mind.

What we seem to never plan for are the bumps along the way. I don’t think any of us go into a circumstance expecting it to be easy. But few of us go into new situations looking for the potential bumps. We walk in obedience and take each moment as it arrives.

This drastic change in job, leadership, team dynamic, and community made the next year and a half really random to say the least. I moved countries 11 months in and had to readjust to a new dialect and a new cultural order. What initially felt smooth in my transition grew increasingly difficult and, to be honest, really lonely.

No one could have prepared me for what living in the Middle East on my own would have felt like.

Annie’s Example

Have you ever heard of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions? Have you ever heard of Annie Armstrong? Chances are, if you grew up in a Southern Baptist church you would have heard of her each year at this time. If you are new, this might sound like a distant history lesson:

Annie Armstrong was a lay leader in Southern Baptist life in the 1800s. And guess what? She started out in what we would call today myMISSION. By the age of 31, this single young woman was helping to start a mission organization in her home city of Baltimore. She was soon using her gifts at the state and national levels. At the age of 37, she helped start Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and strategically led it to become the global influence it is today. At the age of 55, “Miss Annie” left the organization in capable hands and focused the rest of her life on grassroots works in her city.

Annie was a young woman who changed her city, state, nation, and world. Are there any “Annies” in your myMISSION group?

What could we be doing today that could change our world in our lifetime?

When Motherhood Didn’t Go As Planned

The months leading up to the birth of my first child were filled with expectant planning. I’m a Type A person, so I tackle fear of the unknown by over preparing—I read and research until I’m too informed. Since I’d never given birth or had a child, I spent the months leading up to her arrival by reading all the advice blogs and baby websites I could find. I asked all my mom friends for tips. I made all these plans—I basically knew everything there was to know about having a newborn. Or so I thought.

The first few days in the hospital with her seemed to go smoothly. We were getting to sleep pretty regularly, and she was feeding well. And then we went home. She fought me every time I tried to feed her. She didn’t eat for 12 hours. She started to look jaundiced. I began to panic. Suddenly, things weren’t going as planned. As a first-time mom, I lost my confidence in what I was doing. I gave up on nursing her and we gave her a bottle. She ate and she was healthy. That was all that mattered.

Perseverance and Love

myMission Perseverance and Love

It was 20 degrees outside. I thought my tired shoulders were going to crumble under the weight of a backpack crammed full of Bible story books. My legs were stiff from the cold and from walking over 15 miles the day before.

Resting wasn’t an option. I was following my determined translator all around a small rural town in western Russia. Marat was a fast walker, and if I lost him, I would be all alone in an unknown location with no way of communicating with anyone.

So I walked. And walked. And walked.

Periodically we would stop at a housing complex and leave Bible storybooks in mailboxes, lightening our packs a few books at a time. Occasionally we would see someone outside and speak with them.

The fear of getting lost may have kept my sore legs moving throughout the day. But something else had me getting up out of my warm, cozy bed every morning that week.

My first day in the country, I gave a small teddy bear to a boy whose face lit up the room when he received the gift. On the bear was printed the only Russian phrase I knew: “God loves you.”

The Failed Lemonade Stand

I was the kind of kid who would do anything to make money. Whether it was washing the car or watching my little brother, I jumped at the chance to make an extra dollar.

In the summer after fifth grade, I decided that I wanted to set up a lemonade stand at our neighborhood pool. My parents said that was fine, but I would have to pay for the supplies.

After recruiting my brother as a co-investor, Mom took me to the grocery store where I learned that investing in a lemonade stand wasn’t cheap. After getting cups, lemonade mix, ice, and a cooler, I realized that I needed to sell a lot of lemonade to make a profit.

As the day went on, I grew more and more disappointed with my results. Even though I sold a few cups of lemonade, I was still in the hole. Worse yet, my business partner/brother had abandoned me to play in the pool. “Does he have to cover more of our debt if I ended up doing all the work?” I asked my mom.

Looking back, I can see that working that lemonade stand taught me a lot about earning money. While I felt like a failure in the moment, I now realize that the situation was a great lesson.

Called to Action

I love being active. I love playing sports and games, exploring new neighborhoods, and doing hands-on projects that show others love and compassion. This call to action is apparent in our Christian life in many ways. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to sit tight and watch the work of the Lord. We are called to take up our cross and follow the Lord—through action. This is great news! We get to be an active part of God’s plan for His people.

For many years, I’ve been active in missions, taking trips to places like Thailand, Haiti, and even Iowa, but God has more often and with more impact called me to action in the places I have lived. There is nothing like the joy of seeing a friend or neighbor come to know Christ. There is greater love shared through continuous relationship with those hurting around us.

Not-So-Nice People

I’m not sure how it fell on the ears or landed in the hearts of the disciples when Jesus called them to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Him (Mark 8:34), but for me, it painted images of beautiful sacrifice.

I’m talking about teaching Bible stories under a scrubby tree in sub-Saharan Africa, climbing rocky hillsides to take the gospel to an unreached people group tucked in high-elevation villages, eating raw fish to take one for the team (the missions team, of course), or studying long hours over complicated Bible passages. These are the self-denying, cross-bearing activities I was ready to embrace. But when a selfish, whiny, paranoid woman wandered into my life and God told me to deny myself and love her unconditionally, well . . . it knocked me for a loop.

Don’t get caught up in the larger-than-life, grandiose ideas of what sacrificial living has to look like for a believer. It can be all those things, but it can also mean sitting at the bedside of an aging parent or learning to love a difficult person who has never known Christ’s love. Look far away and then look close to home: how is God calling you to deny yourself?

Hmong WMU

Hmong WMU

Celebrating the Heart of Missions

As the Minnesota-Wisconsin Hmong WMU prepares to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our May Retreat, we want to focus on the heart of missions.

As a Hmong woman, I am so grateful for the great love of my heavenly Father who reached out to every corner of the earth to bring His children to a relationship with Him. Missions is at the very heart of God. God loves His creation so much that He would sacrifice His only Son to bring His children back home.

The Hmong people are scattered throughout Asia because they have no country of their own. They are called the mountain people because they live very high on the mountains. They are superstitious, uneducated, and very hard to reach. They worship and sacrifice to demons to appease them, so that no harm will come to their family. God’s love was able to reach the mountain people through His faithful missionaries. Their hearts were opened to the gospel and they were set free from the chains of the evil one. Many Hmong became believers because of the love for the heart of missions.


Simple Love Goes a Long Way

Three weeks after I moved into my new apartment, I met Kana. Kana and her daughter had just moved in across the hall. The immigrant single mom had recently lost her job and didn’t have much outside support.

After a couple of “hellos” in passing, Kana and I ran into each other one day as she was looking for a job. We had a long conversation about her recent hardships and how discouraged she was; she also expressed deep gratitude for her new home and how she hoped this was a starting point for her and her little girl. As I stood and listened, I realized how much she needed the love and support of a family. I told her about my church and how much it means to me to have a church family to support me when things are hard.


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