Encouraging the Encourager

Back in 1991 I took a Spiritual Gifts Test to see what gift of the Holy Spirit I had.  The result surprised and thrilled me: Encouragements.  Frankly, I would never have guessed it, but when I read the result I felt my spirit soar within me, thanking God and telling myself: “Yes, this is right and good!”  Second to that gift, and I believe closely tied, is the gift of Teaching.  At that time I immediately began teaching Sunday School in my son’s class of 3 and 4 year olds.  And I was his Sunday School teacher for most of his childhood.

I knew all along that God had something else in mind for me other than teaching Sunday School.  That’s not to say that it was wrong to teach Sunday School–and God bless Sunday School teachers everywhere, even if I wasn’t called to be one.  I believe that it’s because I immediately began exercising my Spiritual Gifts that God grew those gifts and added other gifts.  Eventually I began working in my true calling: to encourage missionaries in Europe.  When I began encouraging missionaries I had no idea that it was my calling.  All I knew at the time is that it was something I loved to do.  When God revealed to me that this was my calling my spirit soared even more strongly within me.  I was doing something I love doing, enjoying everything about what I was doing, so to have God confirm that it is my calling to do this pleasant and enjoyable work was really wonderful to know.  It was God encouraging me as I encourage His people.

Last night I returned from a brief visit with missionaries in Tuscany.  I try to check in with them every few months or so, but that’s not as often as I would like to do.  Nevertheless, one of them told me: “You have a talent for showing up right at the time when we most need your prayers and encouragement.”  I know that it’s not my talent, but the Holy Spirit creating an opening in my calendar for a visit there.

I’ve gone through a very tough time in the past several months, as some of you know.  God’s counsel to me has been: “Let these things go and concentrate on today’s tasks.  Stay connected to Me.”  And when I did that, He blessed me with those encouraging words from my dear missionary friends.  That’s my Boss!  He’s my Father and Friend, too!  He gave me the gift of Encouragement, and then encouraged me just when I really needed it.  God is good!

Summer—Time to Get Out of Town

Summer is not really my favorite season.  I pant like a dog, sweat like a hog, constantly push my glasses back up my nose, slather on sunscreen, and search for shade wherever I go.  I don’t paint a pretty picture, but it is unfortunately, a true one.

Milan is one of the most miserable places to be during the summer.  The asphalt and concrete turn the city into an oven without the slightest breath of wind.  You become used to the feeling of sweat-soaked clothing and the smell of mildew.  The drops of sweat periodically roll down your spine to join the larger pool at the waistband of your underwear.

With windows open, the street noise and mosquitos invade the house.  Happily, the skeeters don’t find me as tasty as most other people, but all it takes is one buzzing around my ear as I try to sleep.  I slap my ear and I’m wide awake again—with the mosquito untouched and returning just as I fall asleep again.  Car and building alarms sound for hours throughout the night.  The criminals are active because they know that there are fewer police around to respond.  Exhaustion eventually brings on sleep despite these disturbances.

The first several years that I lived here, I had to stay in the city for most of the summer, due to family obligations.  But now that I’m a missionary serving the whole of Europe, I have not only the opportunity, but good motives for getting out of the city during the summer months.  I wasn’t really thinking about what I would be getting out of when I set up this summer’s travel schedule.  But when I realized that I would be spending very little time in the city this summer, I was very glad to know I would be gone most of the time.  In fact, I’m leaving tomorrow.

God is good!