I had an incredible summer. I saw God move mightily through the teams that served under our ministry, from the team in Suriname that presented the gospel in 16 new villages, to the team in Peru that was slung across the Amazon River in a steel cage, to the two teams serving in Panama about which you have already read. Each one saw many salvations, but by the end of the summer, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with certain things anymore. Let me give you the top five things I don’t miss.
- Flip-Flops: I am not a big fan of this type of footwear. My generation called them “thongs,” but I understand that word has a different meaning these days. Flip-flops are great for the beach and backyard, where they’re practical. But they have now moved into mainstream life, where they’ve taken the place of actual shoes. Before long, your minister of music will walk up to the platform accompanied by the sound of flip, flop, flip, flop.
You would be surprised how many students from this flip-flop generation take a picture of their Chaco tan lines (Chacos are fancy and expensive flip-flops). Many of them wear these pseudo-shoes 365 days a year. Even in the depths of winter, they will tromp through three feet of snow, wearing their flip flops and saying dumb things like “It’s not cold out here.” I have concluded that wearing flip-flops causes brain damage.
- Slathering: Living on the mission field, I spend a lot of time outdoors. My daily ritual is to get up, have my quiet time, take a shower, eat breakfast and slather. I start out the day by slathering on sun block and have to re-slather throughout the day. When the sun goes down, the mosquitoes come out, which leaves me slathering on mosquito repellent. The part I hate to slather the most is my face, where slathering makes me feel greasy. I don’t know how you ladies can stand slathering on makeup every day.
- Sweat: If sweat were gold, I would be the richest man in the world. Working in villages with no air conditioning or even a fan, sweating is a way of life. The nationals don’t seem to sweat, but the missionaries do. After sleeping in the jungle at night, I wake up with my hammock showing my outline in sweat. I even sweat in the shower; in fact, I don’t even know why I bother to take a shower. I sweat in places that should never produce sweat; in fact, even my sweat sweats. Name any article of clothing, put the word “sweat” in front of it and you’ll describe what I wear on the mission field: sweat-pants, sweat-shirt-, sweat-socks and more. Of course nowadays, it’s difficult to discern whether I’m sweating or leaking.
- Spam and Peanut Butter: I eat more of these two foods during the summer than most people eat in a lifetime. Every missionary who travels with us, no matter what country they’re in, eats peanut butter and jelly for lunch. The protein serves our missionaries well for ministering in the afternoon. But when you have peanut butter for lunch every day for five weeks, you dream of other foods. That is, until you realize the only other protein source you can carry without refrigeration is Spam. We have scrambled eggs and Spam for breakfast, fried Spam sandwiches for lunch and Spam with macaroni and cheese for dinner. So by the end of the summer, I am peanut butter and Spammed out.
- Water: Because of sweating and leaking so much water as well as eating peanut butter and Spam (which both contain lots of salt), our teams have to drink lots of water. I mean gallons and gallons of water. We are sipping on water from the time the sun comes up until it sets. If we are taking 30 students into a remote village to work, we have to take in 45 gallons of water per day. That means if they are there for four days, we need 180 gallons of water, or 36 five-gallon containers. Waters weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon, so a five-gallon jug weighs 41.7 pounds. If you have 36 of these jugs, you are carrying a total weight of 1,501.2 pounds of water. So can you see why I’m tired of water?
I wonder whether if when the Apostle James wrote, “Consider it all joy when you meet trials of all kinds…” (James 1:2), it included flip-flops, sweating, Spam, peanut butter and water?
But when you see just one person take that step of putting their faith in Christ and the love of God filling them, you realize all of this was a small price to pay.