We’re more similar than different – Haiti, ministry life, and encouragement

Sue Matzke teaches us how a little Haiti can change a lot of life…
About first or second grade we had to fill in a worksheet that asked “When I grow up, I want to be a ____________.”
 
I answered missionary.
 

Besides the Holy Spirit, I’m not certain what prompted me to write that. 

Enter my high school science teacher,Mr. Britten, who was once a long-term missionary in Swaziland, Africa. A scheduling glitch gave my section of Chemistry an extra twenty minutes with Mr Britten three days a week, which he dubbed “family time.” He spoke candidly about most everything we needed to hear and he often told us tales about his mission work. I soaked in every single word. It is not surprising that my high school produced numerous short and long term missionaries, but one of them was not me. I became a parochial school teacher and librarian before marrying a pastor and homeschooling our son. 

And then, one day I became one.

 

In December of 2016, I went with Ministry in Mission to Haiti. Mr. Britten always emphasized the relationships he built in mission work, and he was right.

I had been asked to facilitate some Bible studies through a translator with the Haitian women. I was nervous!  I used Heidi’s Think on These Bible Study and focused on the lovely chapter. There was so much laughter. We all shared different things that our husbands find lovely. And of course, what God thinks of as lovely. The women I worked with in Jacmel had many questions for me and seemed very surprised that my husband and son were in the church’s choir but not me! The women love to share songs. We gathered in a circle, held hands, and they sang Creole Advent hymns to me. It’s one of my favorite memories.

The second half of my trip was spent in the eastern portion of Haiti where Hurricane Matthew had done the most damage. One thing we did was to spend two days traveling to very remote churches to follow up on grants that had been given to rebuild roofs on pastor’s homes. Upon our arrival, I was always introduced as “Madame Pasteur” – pastor’s wife. When I was introduced this way, the Haitian pastors’s wives would always get a big smile on their faces and give me the most giant hug. The translators would then go off and do official business, leaving us two pastors’ wives alone. The language barrier kept us from speaking many words to each other, so more often than not, we’d just hold hands and smile. The Haitian pastor’s wife would sometimes walk around with her husband, holding my hand for dear life. I’ve been there too. Sharing a hand with one another may be just the encouragement that woman needs for their ministry. We would say goodbye with that same giant hug. 
 
I simply cannot wait to return to Haiti in January and hug those beautiful women again!
It’s a sisterhood. We women need one another. Church life, ministry, and family life look strikingly similar, no matter our nationality, ethnicity, poverty or wealth, family structure or size, ministry situation, job, gifts or abilities.
We’d love for you to come with us to encourage and receive encouragement from our sisters in Haiti. For more information on the I Love My Shepherd trip to Haiti January 18-25, see this info sheet and registration forms at Ministry in Mission .

The Truth about Mental Health: For you and for your children


I would like to proclaim a truth about mental health:

It just is.

Mental health is something we all have. I know we’d like to relegate it to people with some diagnosable illness, someone far different from ourselves, or some distant cousin that no one talks about, but you have it. I have it. We all have it.

Mental health is part of all of us. It’s made up of our neurons and hormones and synapses. It’s made up of our emotions, our sensory system, our experiences, our heredity, and our relationships.

We have this gigantic part of us that we are ignoring, wishing, hoping-for-the-best that it stays on the up-and-up.

Let’s proclaim a new truth together: Mental Health is.

We all have it. It’s a part of us. Sometimes it’s happy and doing well. Sometimes it’s struggling. Some of us struggle with it more, others of us less. Sometimes it needs treatment, medications, and more support than we’d like, but it’s better that way; peaceful, functioning well with some help. But it’s important to understand that it’s a thing inside each of us, not relegated to someone less than, outcast, or disconnected. It may look different in each of us, more dramatic perhaps in some of us, mostly happy in others of us, but it’s always there, a part of us, woven and knit in us by our Creator, messed with by a world full of sin.

In today’s podcast I present more on this truth. I pray it helps lighten the shame associated with mental health, for us and for our children.

Sometimes, we think we need to “keep it together.” We need to be at the top of our mental health game and so does everyone in our households.

When we read Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

we think “training them up right” means that we just need to teach them the Word, good values, good morals, good character, and then they’ll be able to “keep it together.”

Truth: It doesn’t work like that.

Training them up means sharing hope and sharing the struggle. It means gathering around the Word so that when the hard times come we know where to turn and so do our children. It means helping them learn that there is no shame in sharing the burden, getting help from experts, and being honest about brain chemistry, individual needs, and when mental health goes awry.

Our children won’t be perfect. We won’t be perfect. Often mental health is out of our control, out of their control; but it is never out of God’s control. He is in the realm of synapses and emotions and struggle too. He is God of even this- when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when it’s ugly.

Truth: We all have mental health.

Let’s normalize that. Let’s rejoice in the gift of one another for support and encouragement when we each need it. Let’s thank the Lord for the creation of medicines, for doctors and nurses and therapists who are in the know, for hope in a God who values our tears when we’re hurting and holds our arms up in the triumph…for us, and for our children.

 

I Love My Shepherd Podcast, Episode 17: The Truth about Mental Health

Chasing Freedom: Fall Bible Study and the quest for free

Freedom

When you were a toddler you got your first taste of it…you may have started with the army crawl, perhaps you put one knee in front of the other in your pursuit of electric cords and other dangers glimmering from your side view.

Maybe you pulled up on a chair and cautiously slid a chubby little foot to the right to peek at where mom had gone. One day, your parents put your bare feet down in spiky grass at the park, the big blue sky shined bright overhead and you got your first real taste of possibility.

You ran.

There were bugs to chase, flowers to eat, and the sound of children laughing somewhere just within reach.

You began chasing freedom and have been doing so ever since.

When we become adolescents freedom becomes so important to us that we push for it at every turn. We buck rules, maybe not dramatically, but putting our pencil in just the right location to let it roll off the desk to annoy the teacher, pushing out angst when our parents make us show up for the family reunion or church picnic, not because we don’t enjoy it, but because we don’t want anyone to think we are following their expectations. We start to either reign ourselves in and make our own rules where we can or we bust out of expectations all together and find anything and everything to rebel on.

Ah, the days of adolescence…fun, exhausting, and important.

To some extent this fight for freedom will always be with us, because it’s a spiritual battle, not an emotional or intellectual one.

God made us for freedom, but we chase it and search for it all around us, always seeking a little bit more, where freedom already exists. We want control over our life, freedom from the expectations swirling around us, freedom from the pain inflicted by others, shallow or deep.

We want freedom, like we want air, and you would think this is only a problem for unbelievers, but it isn’t. No matter how mature we are as Christians we are always discovering what Freedom in Christ means and what that looks like in our lives.

I invite you to lean into this question with me this Fall. Dig deep with us into the six chapters that make up the book of Galatians, a New Testament letter written long ago by the Apostle Paul.

What does Paul know about my search for freedom in the 21st century? It turns out…maybe everything.

Let’s stop chasing freedom together and start sitting in the freedom we have, discovering more of all Jesus gives us, today and each day from here forward, throwing off the expectations of others and resting in the expectations of God and God alone.

Introducing…

 Chasing Freedom: A Study of Galatians  

our upcoming Online Bible Study – six weeks, September 18- October 27th. Mark your calendars, invite a friend, subscribe to I Love My Shepherd so you don’t miss it.

Oh goodness I look forward to studying with you. Look for updates in the weeks to come, a little more on where we try to find freedom and what we are seeking freedom from, and an official “sign up” day August 17th.

Freedom – this Fall.

Together.