Admittedly, my blog posts have been infrequent lately. I needed a break and a time to just live without thinking of the next post, Twitter tweet or Facebook update. That said, our lives here in Cyprus took on an intensity that caused us to simply focus on getting through the days. I sit here feeling a bit intimidated in trying to share with you accurately where we are in life, ministry, faith and mental status. I’m not sure that I have the words or wisdom to determine any of these. But, here is my try – you may want to get a cup of coffee and block off some time in your schedule. This could be the longest post in blogosphere history.
Perhaps the best place to start is praise to the amazing God that we serve. 2009 was a year like no other. We started the year with so much uncertainty about how we would launch into service full-time in Cyprus. But, yet we knew the date. We sold our home, moved temporarily to Virginia and then to Cyprus. I was just re-reading the post that detailed this. What great moves the Lord made on our behalf! He promised and delivered. He has never failed to provide for our every need.
The second half of the year was akin to sipping from the firehose – if you survive, you will probably be stronger and may actually get some refreshment. We are alive. We are surviving. But, it sure seems like there are easier ways to go about this thing called life. This part of the year left us feeling blessed, but battle weary. Our intention was to take a much-needed time of healing over the holidays. In fact, we determined not to travel or make any special plans for the holidays. Stay home and love on one another. This happened for the most part and it was very good. The Lord has provided us a comfortable home that is a place of healing…most of the time. I’ll get to the exceptions in just a bit.
While I spend most of my time in ministry at the office of SAT-7, we know that ministry isn’t confined to an office or a particular organization. Ministry is life. This proved to be true in the last few months. Cyprus has many things about it that are much different to life in the U.S. Midwest. One of these is that many of the locals employ housemaids. Many of these housemaids are full-time, live-in women from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Asian countries. These ladies are often well-educated women who are supporting families in their home countries. The economies in their home countries make it nearly impossible to find adequate employment to provide sustainable life. So, they place their children with other family members and set off for years at a time to provide. They are not only sacrificing time with their families but also respect, freedom, social lives and in some cases safety and basic human rights.
Well, in our neighborhood, there are several homes with these ladies employed. We have started to form friendships with some of the Cypriot homeowners and a few of these housemaids. Two of these Philipino ladies, “M” and “J” have become quite close to our family. One day while Sarah was out chatting with the ladies and J was in tears. It seems that her employer had become interested in her sexually. He had made several attempts to “convince” her that she should allow him to act this way toward her. She refused and suffered bruises and began to live in fear. Whenever he was home, she would have to be sure not to be in a position of vulnerability. Yet, she cooked and cleaned, did laundry and virtually managed the house for him. How does one stay safe in this situation?
Sarah prayed with her several times and offered that if she was in danger, she could come over any time. At the beginning of December, J finally gained the courage to leave, risking her legal status in the country and the capability of providing for her family. She is now looking for another employer. This needs to happen before the 12th of January. If not, she will be deemed illegal and be sent back to the Philipines. She has five children to support. Please pray for her. Pray that she finds employment but also pray for her relationship with Christ. Her faith is uncertain, as she has come out of the Jehovah’s Witness very recently. She has certainly shown an interest in the Bible and we’ve had many conversations about faith. There is a battle going on over her soul. Please pray.
Our family has had a few other encounters in the last month that cause us to be on guard. About two weeks ago, Sarah and I were launched out of bed by the worst, most horrifying scream coming from the kids’ room. We had never heard a kid scream like this – and our kids are fairly dramatic. We enter the room and find Calvin sitting up in bed, eyes open, mumbling and screaming. He was terrified. I ask him if he’s having a dream. He mumbles something and continues to wail. We take him out of bed and comfort him. Eventually, he calms and goes back to sleep. The next day, I ask him about the bad dream he had. He said, “No, I wasn’t dreaming. I was being choked.”
For the next 3 nights, he goes to bed normally, but comes back down saying he is being choked within 10 minutes of lying down. Each time we go into his room and check things out, pray with him and put him back to bed. Then on he fifth day, he is in bed for about an hour and a half. Again, we hear this awful scream like the first day. We run into the kids’ room to find Calvin sitting upright, eyes open pointing to something in the room. He is screaming and pointing. His finger follows “it” around the room to the point where it is no longer bearable. He grabs his head and simply wails in terror. Then, looks up and follows something moving closer, grabs his head and wails. I ask him to tell me what he sees. He can’t even speak. At this point, it is too much for him and we pull him out of bed and into our room.
The boy is shaking. His teeth are chattering. His heart is racing. And, he is sobbing into us just wanting safety. We comfort him and begin to ask what he was seeing. He still can’t verbalize anything. Eventually, he falls asleep in our bed. Sarah and I are now keenly aware of the fact that this is not normal for Calvin. This is something new. He has had bad dreams in the past but this was not one of those. It was true terror. He was awake. We start to believe that this could be a spiritual harassment. Apparently, this sort of thing is somewhat common in this part of the world. Nothing in my Christian upbringing prepares me to understand this….or even type that in this blog.
A good friend, with much experience in this region and in spiritual battles, offered to come and pray with us and for Calvin. We prayed for peace and protection for Calvin. We prayed and committed the house to the Lord’s purposes. We declared that in the name of Jesus, no other entities are welcome here. Since then, Calvin has slept peacefully. The power of the name of Jesus is tangible and real. Please keep praying for Calvin.
Last weekend, we were having a nice afternoon at home. Joyanna was lying on a blanket drooling and playing with some baby toys. Elisa, who deeply loves her baby-sis, was making her laugh. This led to Elisa jumping over Joyanna, which led to a stern command from Dad, “Elisa, stop. It isn’t safe to jump over your baby sister.” She stopped for about 30 seconds. She began to jump again, and before we could stop her, landed on Joyanna’s hand. Sarah rushed to pick up the baby and check her out. This left me in the position of bad cop. I took a moment to make sure I was calm enough to deal with the situation. Then very calmly, but sternly said, “Elisa, you are going to be punished for not obeying. I asked you to stop jumping and you didn’t. You hurt Joyanna because you weren’t obedient. Do you understan….” Then it happened. The worst thing I’ve ever seen.
Elisa, who was upset at the fact that she hurt her sister and upset of the idea of getting punished, stiffened. Her head tilted up. Her eyes rolled back in her head. Then, she fell straight back without bending. Her head broke her fall on the TV stand. I was about three feet away from her when this happened. My brain was trying to figure out what was going on. By the time I realized she was falling, it was too late. I couldn’t save my girl from getting hurt. I picked up her limp body and brought her to the couch. She stiffened again, and thrashed a bit then came back to us. We were in shock and quite upset at this series of events.
After checking her over and determining that she didn’t have any emergent injuries apart from a large bump on her head, we simply comforted and prayed for her. Due to having several concussions myself, we watched her closely for symptoms the rest of the day. We are thankful to report that she didn’t have any. On the other hand, what just happened? Was this a sensitive girl fainting at an emotional situation? Is there something else wrong medically? Elisa has also been complaining of sore legs and arms the last few weeks. Her energy has been low and she gets very tired easily. This isn’t normal for her. We have made an appointment for her with our pediatrician to be sure. In light of Calvin’s recent issues, is Elisa now under attack? We are praying for protection, peace and wisdom regularly. Please will you join us?
I’ll close with an honest assessment of our lives currently. We have been blessed greatly. We have been challenged physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our faith is certain but we are feeling worn. It has been hard to feel optimistic about a new year. It is hard to answer the frequent question, “How are you?” I am wary about the next year. However, I am certain that we are serving the Most High God. I am certain of His love for us. I am certain of His victory over sin and death for us. Yet, I am wary of the upcoming battles. May the Lord strengthen us for His purposes and glory. Amen.