Monday, February 29, 2016

Emotionally Intelligent

After our first week in Colorado at Renewal Conference, we came to the WorldVenture home office and spent a little more than a week there for a debrief seminar. The debrief seminar was a chance to connect with other international workers and share about our last term on the mission field. We also had the chance to visit with supporters, friends and family in the Denver area.

One thing we addressed was especially valuable to us. We talked about emotional intelligence, which is our ability to read a situation and a person emotionally and take that into account. This is also valid for our own emotions. It is our ability to take in and understand the information that emotions provide and act in a way that takes that information into account.

American culture on the whole has not had a great relationship with emotions, especially my (Nate's) gender. We see some emotional expressions as signs of weakness and someone that accesses that part of themselves as out of control.

The challenge is that our emotions are a part of us, just like anything else. When our finger hurts we pull back from the source of the pain. When something feels good, like a massage at the spa, we want to go back again and again. Our emotions give us cues to what is going on in our hearts. One example the presenter used was really powerful.

Our trainer talked about a pastor trying to decide between two future ministry opportunities. With the first option, he explained it very matter-of-factly. He went through the advantages and disadvantages straightforwardly. Then he got to the second option. His eyes lit up and his whole countenance changed. You could tell this second option accessed something deep within him, and he was very excited. At the end of explaining the two options, he finished by saying that he wasn't sure which option was for him or which direction God was leading.

The counselor pointed out the difference between the two and said that maybe he already had a decision. His emotional reaction had displayed what his deep desires were. That doesn't mean that is where God is leading this man 100%, but it should be a clue. Furthermore, recognizing this is a big part of emotional intelligence. It is the ability to read the clues that our own and other's emotions are giving and then taking those into account.

One good question in the face of all this is:

How has this helped us?

Our lives are full of change and transitions. Often we don't notice to toll those transitions are taking on us, but our emotions are a very helpful cue. I have seen many times over the last few years where my own personal emotional reaction to a situation goes far beyond how I would normally react to that situation. These emotions are an important clue that I have something I haven't thought about or processed.

Ultimately, there is a continuum to emotions. We can either shut out all emotions, or we can overindulge in them. In German, there is a phrase, "you can fall off either side of a horse." This is as true with emotional engagement as any other part of life. When we shove our emotions down, we are setting ourselves up for them to explode or come out sideways. When we go to the other side, we can wallow in self pity or become overly sensitive. But when we healthily engage our emotions, we can fully experience the life that God has for us.

How has emotional intelligence helped you handle situations in your life?   Leave your answers in the comments below.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

German Classes for Those in Need

Imagine being forced to flee your country because of war, other dangers or religious persecution. Imagine taking with you only the things you can carry and the clothes on your back. Imagine, then, arriving in a foreign country that will be your "new home", without any support or connections and not knowing the local language.

This is the position that thousands of refugees are in when they arrive in Austria. They are attempting to integrate into a new culture with no tools or support at their disposal. Some come alone, hoping to pave the way for family members to come later. How do you begin life in a new culture, if you don't even know how to communicate with the people around you?

 Because language is such a crucial tool and one of the greatest needs of the refugees coming to Austria, the evangelical church there, in partnership with a Christian non-profit, is now offering free German classes. It's a tangible way for us as a church community to reach out to our new neighbors, showing them the love of Christ by offering them the help they need.

The current class, being taught in our new church building in Vienna, has 70 refugees registered for 4 different language levels. The refugees enjoy coffee, cake and good instruction while they are there. We pray that they come to know not just the language, but why Christians of all people are offering to teach them for free. We pray they would sense a difference (the Holy Spirit) when they enter the building.
Please pray for this new outreach. Pray for enough teachers and help to make these classes possible. Pray for God to work in the hearts of the refugees who come. Pray for God to be honored as Austrian Christians seeks to love their neighbor, just as Christ loves them.

Debrief Week

Every step of the way, it continues to be confirmed for us why we partnered with our missions organization, WorldVenture. The staff there care for us and our ministry deeply and continually offer us great support to continue serving on the mission field. We are so blessed.

We just finished up a week and a half training session at WorldVenture headquarters, where we debriefed from our first 3 years in Austria. We went through this training and debrief with two single women who also just finished their first term and then (3) older couples who have served for decades on the field. The variety of perspectives around the table was incredibly valuable, as we discussed what God did and taught us during our previous term of service.

In addition to group debrief sessions, we were also given time with professional counselors to discuss how we are doing in all areas - emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically, both individually and in our marriage. These sessions were incredibly valuable for us and we were given specific tasks and tools to use going forward.

Another important piece of our time there was having the chance to hear from and meet with various departments at WorldVenture - finance, medical, communications, etc. Each department supports our ministry and it was helpful to be able to ask questions and better learn how to make use of their services.

Each missionary or family shared an update with the WorldVenture staff, reminding them of the great work that their efforts back in Colorado support. We would not be able to serve without them and we want them to know how thankful we are!

It was an incredible restful time in CO. Outside of our meetings, we were able to rest and enjoy a quiet place to stay. We were very thankful for this respite before our busy travel starts up again!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Renewal Conference

 To many people, the words "renewal" and "conference" may seem contradictory. Conferences are typically filled with busy schedules, lots of people, breakout sessions and very little down time. Not too many conference experiences are restful or rejuvenating. So going into a week called "renewal conference" might lead someone to be skeptical. We are thankful, however, that WorldVenture (our missions organization), keeps true to its word and takes the conference name seriously. 
Last week, we gathered with WorldVenture home office staff, regional staff (recruiters from different regions of the U.S.), board members and missionaries for a week of worship, prayer, teaching, learning and networking. The entire first two days were dedicated to just prayer and worship, allowing us to spend time praying for our world, our staff, our missionaries, people groups throughout the globe and many specific needs. We also each had the opportunity to experience an hour long "prayer labyrinth", where you walk a path in a room, listening to an audio track that guides you through a prayer exercise.  These first two days were very renewing.

 The second three days, we were blessed to hear the challenging and engaging words of Ryan Paulson (pastor of a local church). His message on worry and anxiety really hit home for me, and I really felt the Holy spirit speaking through him to me about releasing my worry. We also got to hear from WorldVenture leadership and attend breakout sessions about medical coverage, finances and other helpful topics. At every meal, we sat down with different staff and missionaries. These impromptu conversations were always great, as we compared cultures, swapped language learning stories and discussed thoughts on how to challenge the next generation to consider missions.

Childcare was provided for kids under 5, so Ellie was in good hands all week. I was quite nervous about this going in and the first day was a bit rough for her...but each day was better and better. It was such a gift for us to be able to attend all the sessions and to know she was having fun while we were doing that.

We came away from the Renewal Conference truly renewed!