Who am I?

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Monrovia, Liberia
I live in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa with my wife and youngest son. We are recently arrived in Liberia where we are serving as missionaries with Evangelical Church Missions working under the Liberia Evangelical Mission. For most of the last thirty years we have served under ECM in Bolivia, South America. We are the happy parents of four children and the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Compassion and Confusion - Confessions of a Missionary

He came to my door the first time about three years ago. He had an ulcer on his foot and wanted help for treatment. The foot was obviously bad and so we gave him a little bit of money for medicine. (Not always the best aproach but often the most convenient). When he returned another day wanting more we decided (one of my coworkers was also in on this) that the best thing was to tell him to meet us at the hospital in the morning where he said that he would be getting the treatments. Early the next morning we were at the hospital at the agreed upon time (it is about an hour outside of Santa Cruz) but he didn't show up. h
Wowever I did go in and talk with the people in charge to discover that he had indeed been a patient there, two or three years before, with the same problem but had never followed through. We confronted him with that new insight the next time he came to the door. Yes, he admitted it was so. And he would like to really get this problem taken care of this tme. So I agreed to leave money at the hospital to help pay for his treatments. (Each treatment cost around $1.50 US). And so he began to go to the hospital on a regular basis and receive treatment for the foot.

As time went on I discovered that he had no place to live and been living on the street. Yes, he wanted to change his life. Could I help him? We talked about the Lord and his basic need to let him do the changing. He was all for that, but not today. Everytime I invited him to go to church with me there was a promise to come but an excuse as to why he didn't. (I had to wash my clothes, etc.)

Fast forward now to January of this year. I had decided that I was unable to help him, he was not responding in a positive manner, and I needed to end this relationship. I told him that. Before ending it I had helped him arrange for a new housing situation (which never did come to pass). But not too long after this my bell rang one morning. There he was at the gate. "Gordon, please, you've got to help me." I could see why. There was a huge pool of blood on the sidewalk where he had vomited it up. So much for saying no. The remainder of that day and the next day were spent in trying to find a place for him to receive treatment. The doctors were on strike so that did not help the cause. Finally he was able to be admitted to the hospital emergency room. As I was preparing to leave him he said to me something to the affect that he wanted me to pray with him. He had never said or done that before. So I did and led him through a simple prayer of repentance. Was it genuine? I figured that time would tell. Sure enough I began to see some small changes in his attitude. For example he told me that he had been praying a lot and for me and my family. Up to that point I had never seen any indication that he ever thought of anyone but himself. So, a small beginning.

A bit under a month later he was released from the hospital. I tried to help him find a place to go but that fell through for different reasons. But we finally came to an agreement and he is, as far as I know, established, at least for this month, in a room, off the street and under a roof. He is supposed to be looking for work. I have again been fairly forward and blunt with him that from here on out he needs to not come to me for more help. We will see. I have said that before.

That is the story. It is one which has played out before under different circumstances but the same basic theme. Here is someone with a need. He comes to the missionary for help. The missionary helps. The man returns for more help and a cycle is established. For me as a missionary and a Christian it presents a great dilema. Jesus calls us to share his love and freely do and give to others according to their need. but when does that help become destructive for the man, the missionary or both? When does helping hurt? How do I give freely without feeling used by the one I am helping? When does a relationship of love become a relationship of dependency or even co-dependency? How do I say no when the guilt feelings inside say I have to say yes? How do you listen to co-workers and family who have a better perspective and follow through on their wisdom while battling internal feelings of guilt and failure if I don't help? These are all issues that have to be dealt with. At least for me. I have had to think through and, at times, painfully respond to each of them.

Will the man in the story above be back? Probably. How will I respond? I don't know but am learning to have a more thoughtful response and one that I hope will show the love of Christ to all involved.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Remembering that Ch'airo is a soup made up of a little bit of lots o things, this catch-up post will be that as well, a little bit of a lot of things.

Since the last post there have been a lot of things going on in Bolivia - some big and some little.

Visitor - We had the privilege of hosting a visitor for the ChristLife Church for about a month. He came to observe and serve in anyway that he could. But he really found his niche at the tutoring center. The kids loved him and he did well communicating despite the fact that his Spanish was limited. Thank you Doug for coming and for showing Jesus´love to those kids at the center.

Bats - You have heard of the expression, bats in the belfry, well, we had bats in the A/C. For quite some time we had been seeing evidences of something living in our dining area air conditioner. (They turned out to be mice.) There generally were a number of calling cards each morning. So, after waging a losing a battle, I gave in and called the exterminator. He came and put out poison and so on around. So far, so good. The mice seemed to be gone. But wait, just when we thought it was safe to be barefooted again the calling cards were back. I called the exterminator to see if he could come back. He did but discovered that our new problem was not mice, at least not the usual kind,  but , that's right, mice with wings. In other words bats. Kind of a creepy thought that Dracula is sleeping in your dining room air conditioner. But they now too seem to be gone, thanks to some very pointed efforts by the a/c man to open part of the roof and seal and reseal everything.

Tutoring center - The tutoring center continues to tutor. (Remember the old limerick - A tutor who tooted the flute . . .) I generally have the assignment on my days to work with the kinder and prekinder kids. These are the little brothers and sisters who come with the bigger kids. If we sent them home the bigger kids would have to leave as well because there is on one home, in many cases, to take care of them. So we basically play. Some of the kinder kids will bring assignments from school. It is always having to practice writing letters of some kind. One day it might be four pages of "e" or of the number "7". Some of them even had to practice drawing periods (.). I didn't quite get that one. We also put puzzles together (they really like them), have some duplo type fake Lego's, color (painting they call it), play some games and other activities including play dough, which is also a big hit. I am there usually twice a week. Each session lasts 3 hours. It keeps reminding me how much energy it takes. I am always tired by the end of it. But it is one way I can serve at the center and, hopefully show the love of Jesus to these kids. I don't know much about their homes but I wonder how much some of them see their dads. This last time the one little girl especially was really clinging and demanding my attention the entire time. But that is hard to give with 12 other kids also demanding attention. But we bumble through each time and everyone generally goes home happy. I have to admit i kind of smile when I hear them call me "Profe!" I am currently growing a beard because Niki is gone on a trip. So they now called me Papa Noel (Father Christmas) the last time. Maybe I should start making a list, checking it twice . . .

Family news - We did it. Or maybe I should say she did it. But whoever did it the result is the same. Daughter Dori graduated from Anderson University with highest honors. Niki was able to attend in person. I watched by internet. It was an amazing thing to see her get her diploma. Made me wish that I could have been there too. But I thank God for all his faithfulness to Dori and bringing her to this point in life. Now the real living begins.

Political news - The public doctors are still on strike. They have been on strike for over a month now. This week the transportation people have been on strike in parts of the country and the big labor union group COB (sort of like the AFLCIO) is on three days of strike. I was at the hospital yesterday when the march went by. All the hospital workers were out front cheering on their fellow strikers. It will be interesting to see who finally wins this one, the government or the unions and doctors. Good thing our confidence is not in either but in God.

I suppose that I could continue but will close. If I can figure out how to do it I will post a picture of the new me. Since Niki is gone there is no one to kiss so I have a new look!

Thanks for reading. I will try to get back on track again. It seems that I am always falling off the rail. Thanks for your prayers and interest.