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An Immigrant Story

My mom arrived to Chicago from Bogota, Colombia in the mid 1970’s seeking opportunity and a better life. She knew no English, arrived by herself, and did not have clear plans for her future. All she knew was that America was a country of promise and she came to find it.

She stayed with some friends that she knew and they helped her find work in an office. Her inability to speak English caused difficulties at work, but she stuck it out because she needed some kind of income for basic necessities. Her friends weren’t able to support her completely. After a few months in an office setting she found work through an acquaintance as a live-in nanny in Northbrook, IL.  This woman fortunately spoke Spanish which made communication much easier although the work was still difficult. She was responsible for maintaining the home as well as taking care of the children when their parents were busy. The work was constant and tiring. Thankfully through great trial and error she began to learn a few words and phrases in English. Although definitely not proficient she began to feel a greater sense of comfort with the language.

Homesickness was a continual battle. Her parents, siblings, and close friends were almost 3000 miles away. It was only a 7-8 hour trip by plane, but it might as well have been a world away. There was no getting home easily no matter how badly she felt.

After about a year she received news from home no person, let alone one thousands of miles away, wants to hear. “Your dad is sick. He has cancer. There is not much time left so we need you to come home.” My mom saved to buy a plane ticket and traveled back to Colombia. She arrived in time to spend quality moments with her father and her family before he passed. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer and it progressed quite rapidly. It was a difficult time as the family adjusted to life without him. As the oldest child in the family, my mother felt a responsibility to care for her siblings in their time of grief and she did for a while.

Although grieving the loss of her father, my mom never forgot the dreams of a better life she still had for living in the United States. After a few months with her family, she left them and all that she knew to start again in Chicago. Upon her return to the United States she began to attend some parties with her friends and it was there that she fell in love with the man who would be by father.

My dad arrived in America a few years earlier after fighting in the Vietnam War. He wasn’t an American citizen when he enlisted to fight, but he felt he was doing what was right. After the war, he too came to the United States seeking a better future and a new start. His plan was to study architecture and go to college here. He learned English earlier in life so his opportunities for success were greater than most.

Love didn’t come easily at first. My mom tells me that she and my dad did not get along when they initially met and that for a time she couldn’t stand him. Slowly, it seems like they grew on each other. My dad had a great sense of humor, was smart, and seemed to have a direction for his life. My mom was tough, tenacious, and beautiful. Although opposites in many ways they could not keep separated and were married in 1977.

My parents went through so much and risked everything for an opportunity for a future in this country. They left behind family, friends, and home. I wouldn’t consider them highly skilled workers or people with much education. At first glance it may not seem like they had much to offer and their hope for a future was dim.

But like many immigrants that come to this country they left their mark in positive ways. My dad eventually got a job with the Hughes Aircraft Company working on electronic products for the U.S. government. My mother raised me and my sister through some very difficult times and supported us as we went to college; something she was never able to do.

I can’t even imagine what my parents went through all in the name of opportunity and a better future. They made me who I am and without them I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. Their sacrifices paved the way for the success I enjoy.

I’m grateful they had an opportunity to come into this country even with minimal education and little English language ability. The chance they received enabled me to have my chance and changed the trajectory of an entire family for the better.

 

 

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You’re a partner

yourstory-partnership

One of the bible verses that amazes me every time I read it is 2 Corinthians 6:1. The beginning simply, but profoundly reads “As God’s partner…” It is astounding to think that God considers me a partner in ministry. Although God doesn’t need us for him to work in the world, he still chooses to use people to be his hands and feet in many ways.

Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Really God, you want me as a partner? Don’t you know me? Don’t you remember all the things I’ve done?”

The truth is that he does know me, still loves me, and desires to work through me. That my friends is grace. I don’t deserve it, yet it’s still there. For that I am grateful.

I want to live up to what it means to be considered God’s partner. That’s a privilege and a responsibility. It’s also something that I can only do in his strength.

And that’s enough.

A New Chapter

book

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I figure this is as good a time as any to start writing a bit again. My family and I have moved to Elgin, IL to be the Corps Officers. We are very excited at starting this new journey and all of the opportunities we’ll have to impact the community here. What a privilege God has given us. We have spent the last six years at The Salvation Army’s College for Officer Training and enjoyed every bit of it. The cadets and officers we’ve gotten to work with have touched my life in ways they may never know.

Although there is a sense of excitement in this new chapter there is truthfully a sense of sadness we feel as well. This transition is bittersweet because the new adventure sounds great and the future is full of hope and promise, but it is difficult to leave a ministry we loved and people we cared for. My wife and I are fully committed to going wherever the Salvation Army needs us, but it doesn’t make the transition any easier.

Transitions for congregations are hard too and I recognize the awkwardness and mixed feelings people have saying good-bye one to friends one week and then having to welcome a brand new leader the next. Grieving takes time and I know I have to give myself and the congregation space to process all this change.

I continue to rest in God’s strength during this season of change and am fully confident he will supply my needs. I also love the fact that we get to support our corps family during this time and they get to be there for us. Ministry is always a mutual thing; it shouldn’t occur in one direction all of the time.

I think that’s the way it was meant to be.

 

 

Unity is a gift: General Linda Bond

Just recently we held a Zonal Conference in New Zealand for Army leaders in the South Pacific and East Asia area. The most internationally diverse of all the zones, I looked out on officers representing Salvationists in Korea, Japan, The Philippines, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Mongolia, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Macau.

Yet we have to see this international Army with our spiritual sight. We talked a lot about our different cultures, wore different uniforms, needed translation to understand and to be understood, and gave witness to our own unique backgrounds. Yet here we were, Salvationists from all over the world, proclaiming the name of Jesus, kneeling together in prayer, serving with hearts for the lost, desiring to be the people God raised us up to be and committed to fulfilling his mission. We were one.

I have no idea of the particular situation of everyone who receives this letter and I certainly don’t have personal knowledge of where you worship. But I know I am writing to a majority of Salvationists. When I share this global vision, I am conscious that it must also work on a personal and local level. Diversity is great. Division is tragic. Uniformity is impossible. Unity is a gift.

So wherever you find yourself today, may your eyes be wide open to what you, and your corps, can do when we move forward together into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means, with the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life.

God bless you richly,

Linda Bond
General

The Mission is everywhere

For many years there has been this misconception that missions is “out there”. Typically this meant if you wanted to engage in missions work you had to travel overseas. Related to this misconception was another: mission work was really only for the super-spiritual or super-Christian. There weren’t many missionaries because it involved going long distances away from your family and making sure you were perfect.

Oh how wrong we have been. It’s time we cleared things up.

Mission work is everywhere. It’s not limited to only places in Africa or Asia. God never limited the extent of his work, but we have. The mission field is exactly where you are. Many people do not know about Christ’s love or choose not to believe it in this country.In fact, this country is becoming increasingly secular where in the “typical” mission field of Africa Christianity is growing at a tremendous rate. We might need more missionaries than they do.

Proclaiming the truth and being a missionary isn’t only for a super-spiritual few. God has called all of us to be missionaries wherever we are. God has been sending and engaging people since Genesis. We’ve at time made missions so mysterious and out of our reach that we take ourselves out of one of the main ways God works and engages this world: through us.

All of us are missionaries. You may be in Chicago, Omaha, Newton, or Hammond. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to travel thousands of miles to reach people for Christ.

Just walk across the street.

A bigger imagination

I was reminded a few weeks ago how easy it is to get trapped into one way of thinking and miss out on some big, transformative ideas. I was in a room with a number of other officers discussing a theme and structure for a conference. My brain immediately went to what I know and am comfortable with. I proclaimed my ideas that were nicely wrapped in a box of things we have always done. Nothing new or extraordinary. Simply, the same.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to dream big. My own experiences and personality limit how big I dream. I like routine and things that are familiar and with which I am comfortable.

Taking risks is not a normal part of my personality. I like things to stay the same. Normally, I don’t rock the boat. For years in elementary school I ate the same lunch: Salami sandwich, yogurt, and chips. Now if that isn’t indicative of my personality I don’t know what is.

But the more I get to thinking, the more I think we need to open up our minds to what God wants. We tend to limit God’s dreams based on what we think we can do or things with which we are familiar. How often have we not done something because we didn’t think we were capable?

Here is a gut check question: How often have we limited or impeded God’s plans because of our inability to fully conceive of God’s dreams or plans?

I pray that God enlarges our vision to get in line to his.

 

A tough couple of months

My wife is probably the toughest person I know. I can’t imagine what she has had to go through because of this pregnancy. We are excited about having a baby, but at time same time this pregnancy has been the most challenging of all of our kids. Sickness was constant and just watching what she had to go through was difficult for me. It’s hard to see someone you love suffer; especially when there isn’t much you can do about it.

One thing we tried to do every night was to pray. I would gather my kids around my wife and each of my children would take turns praying for their mommy. My son would pray that his mommy would feel better and my daughter would pray for her to have more energy. My kids know that if someone needs help, they should pray. That’s one of the first things my son suggested after he saw his mommy sick for so long.

There was no doubt that God was listening and in my son’s mind it just made sense to talk to him. Whenever my kids pray I always think about what Jesus said about having faith like a child. I don’t think that’s a negative thing at all. Their utter confidence in their prayers and God’s intervention is amazing.

Although the last couple of months have been rough especially for my wife, God has shown himself to be faithful (as if there was any doubt). Heather has gotten better and even though there still are rough days the power of prayer is evident.

My kids have seen this firsthand.

A Missionary God

The concept of God sending people to others did not begin with the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In reality, it has been present since Genesis. In these early accounts you get a picture of a God who has always been concerned about the world. When he calls Abraham from his own land and tells him that his descendants will be a blessing to the entire world, it’s a clear missionary focus to all people. Later, when the Israelites leave Egypt, the book of Exodus reports that there were other people that left with them. They weren’t all Hebrew and God allowed them to come along.

I don’t believe there was a focus on only reaching a certain group of people; God always had the bigger picture in mind and that was to bless the entire world.

Now, if God was concerned about reaching and blessing everyone, why do we say (or perhaps hint at) that we should only reach out and include people in our Corps that are just like us?

Why do we assume that just because we can grow a church faster with a homogenous group that this is what God wants?

God has always been missionary focused.

So should we; to all people. Like him.

Opening Salvo 2012

I got this from Commissioner Joe Noland’s blog here. I recommend that everyone subscribes to his blog.

The Salvation Army has issued an order: “Courageously Experiment!”

The Salvation Army has regulated you to: “Be willing to be dedicated to failure!” In other words, be willing to take a risk now and then.
Don’t take my word, read it for yourself:
…he will not only make use of the Army’s time-honored methods of evangelism, adapting them in the most effective way possible to the needs of the hour, but he will courageously experiment with new ways of making Jesus known as Savior of men. In other words, he will be willing to be dedicated to failure. In the divine economy this could be the way to God-glorifying success.  (pp 18) Orders and Regulations.
My opening salvo on the cusp of 2012.

JN

Turbulence

Flying is not one of my favorite activities, but sadly today, I will have to fly back home to Chicago. Although I prefer not to fly, it sure beats driving the 16+ hours it would have taken to get to Rapid City, SD where my wife’s parents are.

One of my worst flying experiences happened after attending the National Seminar on Evangelism in Colorado Springs. Because there were no direct flights from Colorado Springs to Chicago, we had to take a quick flight to Denver and from there board another plane to Chicago. The flight would last a total of about 20 minutes and because the flight was so short, the plane did not have to go very high in the air.

Little did I realize how much of a problem this would be.

Since the plane didn’t have to fly high we were right in the middle of all of the turbulence for the full 20 minute ride. I was sitting by the wing and remember seeing it bounce up and down the entire time. I’ve never been so nervous. That was the most intense prayer time I had ever experienced. I was almost sure that this was going to be my last plane ride.

As we were traveling in heavy turbulence, my mind had a moment of clarity. I began to think about certain truths regarding air travel.

1. It’s more dangerous to drive in a car

2. It is the safest form of travel. Plane crashes hardly ever happen.

The lady sitting next to me must have thought I was crazy as I mumbled to myself, “safest form of travel, safest form of travel, safest form of travel.”  Those simple truths helped me calm down and gave me a peace about the whole situation.

In our lives, we’re guaranteed to go through periods of turbulence. There might be periods of doubt, trouble in relationships, a death in the family, a question of your calling, and problems in your marriage.

Certain truths about God found in Psalm 18 can give you peace and steady you in the midst of the storm.

1. God is unchanging, steady-Everpresent.

2. God will always be there for us.

3. God can deliver us and give us strength.

When the turbulence of life comes, these things can steady our souls, minds and give us the hope we need to keep going.