Growing up the son of a missionary and gospel singer/evangelist who were committed to living, "by faith:" asking no one but God to meet the family's needs shaped me in some interesting and challenging ways. I grew up having visited many of the 48 contiguous states, and seeing many things my peers only dreamed of seeing. At the same time, Mom would drive up to the house with us in the car and there would be groceries on the front porch that she needed, hadn't asked for, and cooked with that night to feed us. We were always dirt-poor, and always had enough.
If Dad was called for meetings in East Texas or Florida, he'd always say yes, and then he'd pull out the Rolodex and begin calling churches and pastors along the way to build an itinerary so he could afford to get there. You see, Dad never required any payment and never knew what he was going to get (if anything) and so the idea of the church covering his expenses was foreign to him. We paid our own way and graciously accepted whatever was offered to us upon completion of our mission or crusade in the community. Nearly always, every weekend and every Wednesday night were booked and we'd simply travel from community to community in order to reach the place that first booked us. It could take weeks, but it is how we traveled.
In today's world, I wonder what my parents' Facebook accounts would look like. Undoubtedly, they would post pictures of churches where they ministered and pictures of Dad singing or Mom telling a story or leading a Bible Study or women's meeting, but I imagine there would be a lot of pictures of Timothy and I swimming outside of Boonesborough, Kentucky in the Cumberland Gap where I spent my 10th birthday, or of us touring the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Straight Street in Philly on the 4th of July 1976. Perhaps you'd see pictures of us playing at Niagara Falls or Fort Ticonderoga, looking at Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons or the Grand Canyon.
Maybe my parents would have been smart enough not to post those photos that family and friends wanted to see on their public pages so that people wouldn't get the wrong idea about the family and think that we were flush and simply playing all the time. Because that certainly wasn't the case. I don't know how they would have worked that out and I wish I did.
This summer has been a celebration summer for Paula and I. We spent the first two years of our marriage never qutie having enough to pay the bills, and spending at least one, or many times two or three nights each week apart, as I traveled to the Little Fishing Village to the North of Portland for School. Supporters stopped supporting Paula because they assumed, as a man, I'd take care of her financially. After all, isn't that my job? They don't realize that as a grad student, living on the edge, having betrayed my former ministry partners through my adultery, I simply couldn't.
Like many couples, especially older-- poorer ones, blending our financial lives is one of our greatest challenges. In contrast to my background, Paula grew up in an affluent family who trained her how to manage money well. In some ways, we're good for each other and in others we sometimes want to kill each other.
So this summer, in the wake of three life-changing years, we've chased beauty as we've lived, using many of the travel strategies I learned growing up. We've taken Dr. Dan Allender's advice and taken the time to connect to each other more tightly, and God in new and fresh ways. It is easier now that I don't have another book to read and paper to write. When we've gone somewhere for business, we combine it with a day or two to relax along the way.
In June I graduated in Seattle and took Thomas to check out a school in British Columbia. I combined the two because I couldn't afford to take him on this campus visit any other way. Since we were in BC, TL and I tagged on two days in Whistler that didn't cost us anything except for the gas to get there. We took our food and had a kitchen in which to cook. We had a brilliant time.
In July, Paula gave me a 50th birthday/graduation gift and we rode 1701 miles to Canmore, Alberta to see the Canadian Rockies. It was a vacation to be sure, and it cost money to do. We were celebrating major milestones. And our celebration was also an act of worship. Paula called it a Pilgrimage. The bonus was that we stopped along the way to develop new ministry partnerships and see people we'd never get a chance to see if we weren't making the trip.
August is Paula's birthday month and September is our anniversary month and so we planned to go to Bend on a working vacation/celebration to see and connect with people for the Kingdom. After that trip was planned friends gave us an actual real-life vacation at Depoe Bay. It caught us both off guard and was probably the best vacation ever, and yet, even then we spent our mornings reading, planning, and writing together before going to play in the afternoons.
So you can't imagine my disappointment when Paula told me that someone said to another of her friends,"It seems like all they do is vacation."
I teach, metaphorically, that there are three legs of the stool upon which I rest. One of those legs is that "what other people think of me is none of my business." I believe that wholeheartedly and I am also aware that this person's hurtful statement will lead us to make some changes, not to how we live, but how we portray the way we live.
The second leg of the stool is "If you spot it you got it." The person thinking we're always on vacation has his/her own insecurities in regard to our actions. Regardless, we live in a world where perception matters. And as supported missionaries, we need to make sure that we are not harming our ability to develop kingdom partnerships with people who are called to support Kingdom work financially.
Unlike my parents, we can't post pictures of the people with whom we meet or even tell the stories of the lives that are changing when we meet with them. It isn't appropriate or ethical in our line of work. Those stories aren't "Facebookable." I thought the beauty we've chased along the way was, but that is apparently not so. APparently we need to limit that to a very few close friends. That is a sad reality we are going to have to face. I think you can expect some further changes to our Facebook feeds as we move forward. It might be that we need to cancel them altogether, creating other ways to communicate with our friends around the world. We'll see. We have some talking to do.
Please feel free to chime in on this topic either in the comments below the blog or the Facebook post, or in a personal message on FB, or even in an email to Paula or me. On quite another note, I am sure that this is the reason that Allender doesn't use Facebook.
By the way. Here is the link that Paula's friend was sharing with Paula's other friend. It was this link that led to the discussion that has led to this post: