In Taiwan, recycling is mandatory. Here in Big Rapids, Michigan (USA), it is optional. Yesterday, we all went to the local recycling place and brought all our plastics, corrugated cardboard, and aluminum cans to be recycled. It was a good opportunity to teach Carmen and Jacob the values of recycling and taking care of our planet earth. Both of them helped me haul in the bags of stuff and dumped them to the assigned baskets and racks. I was proud of them. They learned something important that day.
Last Labor Day weekend, we visited with the Johnsons and the Evoys, and shared at two local churches, Boyne City Free Methodist Church and Sault Ste. Marie Free Methodist Church. It was a long weekend for us. In all our four visits, both kids remarked: "This is the best ever." One could tell that they were having so much fun. They are building relationships at each visit. They are meeting new friends and getting to know some of our (their parents') old friends. It helps that in all these four places we visited, there were children their age and friendly dogs that played with them. Let me explain.
In Lakeview, MI, at the Johnson home, we had dinner with the Mallo family, Pastor Ted's daughter's family. Ted has two beautiful granddaughters Bailey and Ellie, ages 6 and 4. Carmen and Jacob played with them outside the backyard. When from nowhere, a little friendly puppy came over from Ted's neighbor and played with all of us. This puppy loves to jump on people's laps. So, we each took turns cuddling this friendly puppy. Everyone had a blast.
In Boyne City, we went to the lakeside and watched some of the docked sailing boats. Carmen gave Jacob a little tour. Jacob was pretending he was inspecting a Pirate Ship. After our little expedition by the lake, we visited with Pastor Jason's family. He has three boys, Joel (7), Isaac (5), and Matthew (about a year old). The boys, together with Carmen, went out "hunting" for garden snakes and little frogs out the yard of the parsonage. I was doubted them at first, but later we found out they caught two garter snakes and four frogs. Impressive! They also had a great time exploring the church garden. Carmen had a mouthful of fresh tomatoes from the garden.
In Sault Ste. Marie, we visited Dan and Holly, pastors of Sault Ste. Marie FMC. They had Chingu, a lade back mutt, that looked liked a half terrier and half beagle. Carmen warmed up to Chingu. On the other hand, Jacob had a great time playing with the Gibbons children, Tyler (9) and Wyatt (7). They went outside the church and run around the building and by the parking lot. while everyone was inside chatting. I am not sure what games they were playing. For all I know, it might have been a trip to some lost galaxy or a search for some hidden treasures.
On Monday, we drove to Wolverine, MI and met with the Evoys. Carmen and Jacob played with Jade (7) and Lily (5) Evoy, outside the Evoy residence, close to the woods. They built some "forts" under a pine tree and decorated them with interesting objects. Jacob, the only boy of the group, went a little distance and found his own tree and built his own fort. While the four of us adults, Steve, Jenny, Sarah, and I, were busy talking about Taiwan and Asia, the foursome young ones ventured into the wilderness and were lost into the wonders of nature. We went home tired but so full of great memories of our new friends.
In this time of Partnership Building, when we visit friends and supporters from our many Free Methodist churches, Carmen and Jacob are learning new and old things. They are learning about friendships. They are discovering what it means to partner with our missionary supporters. They might not understand what fund-raising entails. But they are quickly learning the value of face to face encounter. They now see the importance of meeting our supporters in person and sharing with them our stories in the harvest fields. We are teaching our children. We are teaching them that missionary work is not only there in Taiwan, but also involves our friends here in Michigan. They are slowly comprehending the intricacies of the idea of partnership. We participate in God's work through our friendship and common heritage we call Free Methodism.
Sarah and I do our best to teach our children. Whether it is recylcing old things for the good of the planet or treasuring friendships for the purpose of missions partnership, we teach Carmen and Jacob that ultimately, it is God who sustains everything. Our Creator Savior will lead the way.