Rachel’s first Christmas

I have celebrated many Christmases, but the one that is most unforgettable for me is the miracle-filled Christmas season of 2005. It started around July, that year, when we found out that we had been matched with a baby girl in an orphanage in Cebu City, Republic of the Philippines. Unfortunately, a paperwork deadlock followed, where agencies in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines were both waiting for the other one to make the next move. And waiting. And waiting. It felt to me like a hostage situation. We earnestly desired to bring our daughter home. I made phone calls, sent emails and faxes, all to no avail.

Then I prayed. The Lord said “Go there.” He also said “Tell people that you will have your daughter by Christmas.” The Inter-Country Adoption Board told me not to come, because they weren’t ready. I said I was coming anyway for other reasons, and went. After personal, face-to-face conversations with the appropriate people in Port Moresby and Manila, the bureaucratic paper jam was cleared, and the process started moving again. There was still some waiting, though, with no natural way of knowing how long. Lori had to go back to PNG to take care of our sons. I stayed there, acted as our own expediter, and kept telling people what the Lord said.

On the last working day before Christmas (a Friday), Rachel was released. I got stuck in a major traffic jam on the way from the store where I picked up baby cereal and formula, so I told the taxi driver that if he would wait for me, I would pay him double the going rate to get me to the airport. I got out of the cab about 3 blocks from the orphanage, signed the paperwork, gave Rachel a fresh change of new clothes, and walked back to the cab, which was now only 1 block away from the orphanage. Yes, traffic was bad, and I had a use-it-or-lose-it ticket on the last plane with any space on it from Cebu City to Manila before Christmas. The taxi driver, being highly motivated, drove with adrenaline and enthusiasm through back alleys and byways, in ways that defy attempts at diplomatic description. I prayed in the back seat, holding Rachel. “Lord, you know that we will probably be late. Please hold that airplane for us.” That airline had a 98% on time record. We arrived late. The taxi driver tore my duffel bag as he pulled it out of the trunk, still pumped with adrenaline. I thanked and paid him as promised, and calmly walked up to the ticket counter and checked in, asking for tape to repair the duffel bag. The flight was delayed, giving us a little time to sit in the waiting area as Rachel drank some milk from a bottle.

So, Rachel and I made it back to a guest house in Manila, which was officially closed for Christmas. We were allowed to stay there anyway, but without meal service. No matter– I had formula and cereal for Rachel. Someone had pity on us, and invited us for Christmas dinner: microwaved frozen McDonald’s hamburgers and an apple.

After another week’s delay, Rachel and I were cleared to leave the Philippines and return to Papua New Guinea, where we celebrated Christmas again, with the whole family. And yes, the meal was more traditional, the second Christmas of 2005, including ice cream and cake. It is, after all, a birthday celebration for Jesus, the Savior.

That was just a small sample of the many miracles involved in making Rachel a permanent part of our family. Praise the Lord!

Long and short term missions

Photo of life with tribal war

Which is better: long term missions or short term missions?

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, of course. A long term missionary has time to really learn languages and cultures, to develop relationships, and to effectively work on projects or engage in types of ministry that take significant amounts of time. A short term missionary has opportunities to make a concentrated impact and/or to investigate future short or long term missions. So why would anyone even debate this issue?

Both have their potential disadvantages, too. Long-term missionaries risk creating unhealthy dependencies or burning out. Short-term missionaries risk doing damage because of inadequate understanding of language and culture, or by being more of a drain on mission resources than they are an asset. They are also more easily deceived. Do these disadvantages mean that we should abandon either strategy? Of course not! As with any hazard, we evaluate what we can do to minimize the negatives and maximize the benefits to the Kingdom of God. In all things, we seek the wisdom of the Ancient of Days Himself.

Which is better? Whatever the Lord has called you to do.