Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Sometimes people think of missionaries as people who “suffer for Christ”. They feel sorry for missionaries who are making sacrifices in order to live out their call or they feel relieved that the call to be a missionary hasn’t gotten a hold on their lives! When people express this idea to us we can start to dwell on all the uncomfortable aspects of our lives and begin to feel sorry for ourselves. When the electricity began going out on a regular basis and for longer and longer periods, it was tempting to fall into this trap. That was when it was time for me to stop and re-evaluate. In fact, not having electricity does not constitute real suffering. It is an inconvenience, but it is not life threatening. It may make us uncomfortable because the fans don’t work or we don’t have any cold water to drink. However, discomfort and inconvenience do not constitute suffering.
What constitutes suffering? In fact, we see many examples of suffering on a regular basis. Not having enough to eat and watching your children go hungry qualifies as suffering in my books. So does not having access to health care or clean water. Not having decent
schools for one’s children should also qualify. This year the government here in Benin has decided to make public education free for everyone. However, the classrooms are now too full, with neither adequate seating arrangements (30 children on benches made for 10, for example) nor books and supplies. These forms of suffering are connected to the poverty
inherent in an “underdeveloped country”.
Other things which I consider suffering: having a life threatening or life-altering disease or watching someone you love suffer from such a disease. Living with constant physical or emotional pain constitutes suffering. So does losing a loved one. Slavery to addiction in its many
forms or being trapped in a cycle of violence are forms of suffering. These conditions exist in North America as well as in Africa.
So Bruce and I are not “suffering for Christ” as the saying goes. There are things we miss, like being at a Christmas family gathering. The last time I attended a Frey Christmas family gathering was probably in 1997 and the last time Bruce attended a Yoder Christmas was also probably in 1997. We haven’t been in North America for Christmas since 1999. I miss snow at Christmas, and Christmas carols, and houses all lit up for Christmas. We look forward to a time when we will be able to celebrate Christmas in North America.
We rejoice in the many blessings we share in living in Benin. One that comes to mind at this time of year is being spared all the pressure to buy, buy, buy! Our children are not exposed to television advertising which, I must admit, seems to be highly effective. After two months in the land of plenty this past summer, our children came back knowing all sorts of advertising jingoes and knowing about toys that I had never heard about! Our focus at Christmas time can be on family, friends and Christ’s birth.
Our children are blessed growing up in an intercultural setting; at school they interact with children from many parts of the world on a daily basis. They are growing up bilingual. They may not know the states or provences and their capitals, but they do know where Togo, Ghana and Nigeria are. They understand first hand about poverty and privilege.
Our prayer for you is that you will rejoice with us in the hope we have, hope not only for us, but for the entire world. A hope that is real because a baby was born, not as a king, but as a child of poverty. A baby that grew up and transformed the world by his life,death and resurrection. We have a living hope that God’s reign WILL come and God’s will WILL be done on earth and there will be an end to suffering. May those who know suffering find comfort in this hope. May we persevere in prayers of faith knowing that prayer changes things. And may we be led to act out our faith so that others
may experience the hope that we know.
We thank God for:
● Safe travels for Bruce throughout the year. From the time of our return from North America on August 21 until the end of December, Bruce traveled for 57 days. We thank God for bringing him back home safely every time.
● Good health. We have all had good health, other than minor ailments and colds. We thank God who keeps us safe from accidents and illness.
● Good teachers for our children. We feel satisfied with the education Jeremiah and Deborah are receiving and they like their teachers. Overall they enjoy going to school.
● Having all we need. God has supplied our every need and we are grateful that we are lacking nothing.
Please pray with us for:
● The full time program at the Benin Bible Institute. We are looking for new forms of scheduling to replace the full time model that does not seem to work for most people. Pray that the Lord would direct us to new ways of making biblical education available to those who are called to full time ministry. Pray also that we would find ways to
decentralize our programs.
● The fledgling Mennonite congregation in Abuja, Nigeria, the first church plant in the nation’s capital by Mennonite Church Nigeria. This congregation, made up largely of young professionals, has stepped out in faith to purchase land on which to expand their facilities. Pray that God would provide for this new infrastructure initiative.
– 2 –