18th Feb, 2008

First Day On The Job

So, here I am at 2:30 a.m. English time, wide awake, even though I’ve now been here for 4 days. Given that my mind couldn’t stop thinking back through some of the wonderful aspects of my first day working as a staffer at The King’s Lodge I thought I would share a bit of it here.

Before I share about the “work,” allow me the liberty to put it into the context of my day and location. We are now living full-time on a missionary training base with about 100 people. All of the people here, as well as the base itself, exist upon the gifts and donations of other people. What facilitates this is community (or communal) living. No, it isn’t a cult, but we are a “commune.” This makes living more economical, and, from a Christian discipleship standpoint, puts us in a position of great accountability and compels us to live relationally toward other people from over a dozen different cultures around the world.

One of the greatest “trials” with such living for this family comes with every meal. As an American family with three children under 10, communal meals are challenging. Our kids have learned, through us and through commercialism, to “have it their way.”

We sit at tables of 8. That means that we take up five seats and have up to 3 other unfortunate souls with us. They are likely 3 individuals who have forgotten or never known what a battle takes place within the Riley family at most of the meals. Add to the stress that they may all be people who have never had children.

So, yesterday at 1 p.m., we sat down to a delicious looking meal of tuna casserole, sided by string beans. Yes, the tuna was leftover from a previous meal and the casserole contained assorted “bits” from other previous meals, but it was mixed with rotini noodles and an overly generous portion of delicious white cheese. Honestly I thought the kids would like it….IF THEY WOULD ONLY TASTE IT. I knew the string beans that had simply been boiled, unseasoned, would go over like a lead balloon, but surely they could stomach the cheesy casserole.

As is often the case, Tanner or Keaton will say and/or display their displeasure at the sight of any previously unseen meal and our four-year old will weigh her judgment thereabout based on how much displeasure Keaton and Tanner show. Add to all of this the fact we pay by meal by individual. So, if our children show up and stare at their plates, we are throwing money (that we have been entrusted with) away. In the past there has been bread and spreads available at every meal; however, this practice has been discontinued at the main lunch meal and only occurs at “tea” now.

So, all of this really is small potatoes, but I was slowly but surely becoming incensed. Often, Tanner, my oldest, bears the greatest weight of my anger, even when it involves all three children, but in this case he actually laid the straw on my back that nearly put me over the edge. Again, as I write all of this it humbles me because it is all small stuff, but it sure upset me at the time. Because Tanner had an empty plate and was exceedingly bored with such a situation he created excitement by poking at his brother, Keaton. This added to the tension at the table (remember the non-parents at the table) and Tara told him at least three times to stop the behavior. My final straw was when Tara, Keaton and Regan had a “race” to see who could drink all of their water and Tanner used that moment to poke at Keaton one last time. Yes, of course, the water spilled and it took all I had not to overreact. I was, as they say here, quite “cheesed off.” I told Tanner to leave the table immediately and go straight to the restroom (the “loo”) and not to leave until I arrived.

After I had cooled down and finished my dinner I fetched him and told him to go to his room. By the time we all got to our flat I still hadn’t said all I wanted to say and I unloaded. I don’t say things like “you stupid boy” or “you are so naughty,” but as anyone who has seen this lawyer work knows, I have an embarassingly sharp tongue that can lay a heavy burden upon another. After words designed to make Tanner (and Keaton) feel quite small (something that included how they have all their meals provided for them and there are many children around the world who don’t – and of course now they’ve witnessed it), I left for our meeting with other leaders and staffers to discuss preparation for leading the next Crossroads Discipleship Training School, a school designed to prepare adults for mission work.

Guess what we discussed? Barry Austin, a pioneer in YWAM from New Zealand who happens to be based at The King’s Lodge, shared about “Love – Tough & Tender: Encouraging and Confronting.” It was two of the best hours of teaching I’ve encountered and every minute of it caused me to think upon my interaction with Tanner. As we discussed these words from Galatians 6: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted,” I could only think of how my tongue in such situations is rarely gentle and how often I am tempted to react to someone’s bad attitude with an identical one.

As I reflect on this I see how God has clearly brought me here. This is exactly where I need to be. We sat in a meeting, ten of us from 5 different nations (Egypt, New Zealand, U.S., England and Australia), all seeking to live out God’s principles and desires for our lives. It was exciting to discuss scripture and apply it to real life with followers of Jesus from all over the world. Although I feel as though my failings at applying these principles to daily life with my kids will surely preclude doing so with adults, God has been gracious to put me in a place where I can see it modeled and can grow. The Holy Spirit led each of us in the meeting to be humble, open, and honest. It was, as is talked about it Proverbs 15:31, “life-giving.”

Please keep praying for us! We are greatly encouraged by what is happening here and by your prayers, gifts, and words of encouragement.

Responses

Blessings. I just prayed for you and your family.

Kev,

Thank you for your faithful prayers. God bless.

I can relate to missionary meal times with children (What is THAT? I’m not eating it!). I am thankful for the bread and spreads that were available at meal times for us, so I understand. Did you talk to your children about your meeting afterwards?

Great question, Mary. I remember talking to Tanner about my heart and apologizing afterward, but I dont’ think I really told him about the meeting. Such things are definitely an important part of his discipleship, as well as my own.

Bryan,
I’m glad you addressed the mealtime issues. Now at 12 years Corissa is expected to try a few more things. Sometimes she does and then we fall backwards to macaroni again. I am reminded of her joy for eating when I hear of her 7th grade friends not eating for days. Our mealtimes are pretty much the only family time we have. Praise the Lord that we are there to pray and fellowship and then eat with our soon to graduate son,Colin.

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