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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Obedience Doesn’t Always Require Sacrifice

Posted by admin in July 13th, 2010
Published in faith, missions, obedience, teaching

Every single day of my life I’ve had to make decisions. We all have. When I was a kid my Mom would ask, “What do you want for breakfast?” That’s decision making 101. When I got older my teachers in school would ask, “Do you want to pass or fail this class?” That’s decision making on a little higher level. Truthfully though, the older one gets it seems the harder the decisions. Of course that’s not the case for all people. Some kids are forced to make decisions way too complicated for them. And the converse can also be true—adults choose to make decisions that are too simplistic, perhaps too easy.

Well, recently Daryl and I had to make a decision and for us it is a pretty big decision. You see I went to teach in Lithuania this summer. Big mistake. Huge mistake! I fell in love with the place. Head-over-heels in love and the university where I was teaching offered me a full-time, long-term job.

For fifteen years I have lived in these United States full-time, long-term. Life is very convenient here. Need something? Get in the car and drive to the store and buy it. Too hot? Turn down the air conditioner. Too cold? Turn up the heat. My life here has been easy and convenient and without any physical needs really. Some might think that’s good. I have come to realize it’s not so good for me.

Self-reliance is a value or attribute we honor and respect here in America. Independence is a characteristic we actually try to instill in our children. We respect self-reliant individuals who, in the words of the late Frank Sinatra, “Did it my way!”

Self-reliance, independence, doing it my way—these aren’t really good things for me. I can actually say that if I’m working to conform to the image of Jesus Christ, these things in my life are actually harmful. In my fifteen years here in America I’m afraid I have failed in two very important and specific areas: my faith in God and my walk with Jesus. I have failed miserably. Why? Because I have been at ease in Zion (biblical reference here—sorry).

Life here has been too easy. And unlike China or Russia or Nigeria—I haven’t needed to ask God to protect me, watch over me, bless my food (and keep me from contracting a terrible disease from eating this food). I have been like a fish out of water and we all know how a fish out of water ends up. Dead. For me, it has been a spiritual death. A death of my heart and soul.

Lithuania International University invited me to come and teach in their newly launched MA in TESOL program this summer. I went alone. Daryl had to stay here in the US. I traveled to Klaipeda, the city where the school is, and I stepped foot on the campus. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I met the other professors and caught a glimpse of two or three students and I liked it even more. Finally, Monday morning rolled around and it was time for me to teach my first class for the program. I prepared. I had my lecture notes, my PowerPoint presentation, my handouts, extra pens and a highlighter. I put everything in my bag and walked over to the main building and found my classroom. It was early. Students hadn’t started arriving yet. I set up my classroom, put a quote on the board, arranged the desks and I started coming alive. Is this how Lazarus felt? Was his coming back to life a tingling sensation where limbs began to report for duty one by one to the brain? I knew this place, though I had never been there before. I knew these smells and they were sweet perfume to me. Students started coming in and then it was 9:00 and time to start.

I found home.

Each one of us was designed for a specific purpose and plan. God knew our names before we were even born and He has counted the very number of hair on each of our heads. He has written our names on the palms of His hands. He knows us. He loves us. And He longs to work through each of our lives to touch a hurt and dying world.

Standing in that classroom watching students grasp, and sometimes the material was very difficult, concepts and ideas and to see light bulbs go on I knew this is what I was created for and to NOT do this would be disingenuous and inauthentic. I was made to teach in a distant classroom. I was designed for this very thing.

So when the university asked me to come teach full-time and for long-term I said yes.

YES! Daryl and I head off to Klaipeda, Lithuania, on August 26th. We will celebrate our 16th year of marriage on August 27th. What a crazy way to celebrate. I’m happy and scared and nervous and excited and clear and foggy all at the same time! We have no idea how the details will work out! Can we afford it? No. But we can’t afford NOT to go. Do we need to sell our house? Yes. But right now it needs paint and cleanup and the market is lousy. Do we have kids and grandkids and stuff and cars and parents and an organization to run? Yes. But we both feel this is God’s will and this is what He is leading us to do. And we’ve never been happier. It’s a little like jumping off a cliff into the water. Takes your breath away but in a good way.

WE’RE MOVING TO KLAIPEDA! Even as I write the words I still have to pinch myself. All I know is that when I was in that classroom loving those students and teaching my heart out I sensed God’s good pleasure. Suddenly, after fifteen years, I remembered who I was.

Please be praying with us. Please ask God to give us wisdom and revelation knowledge concerning the details. But most importantly please ask God that we might be found faithful and true. We’re going and it is a huge step of faith and one of obedience, but we are so happy and God’s peace is truly leading us.

Let me close this post with a story. This happened to me last month in Lithuania.

My colleague and his wife are Americans who live in Moscow. Amazing couple who were in Klaipeda just for the summer; just for this course. I asked David and Cathy on Saturday morning if they’d like to go with me to find a Lithuanian church, go to the beach after the service and maybe grab a bite to eat and walk the three miles back to campus from the beach. They said, “We’re in!” So I asked an expatriate on campus who’d lived in Klaipeda for twelve years, if she knew of a good Lithuanian church we could attend. Yes, she said. City Church. She instructed me to go to the reception desk and ask to reserve a taxi for Sunday morning to take us to City Church. She gave me the name of the street and the approximate location. “It’s near the beach,” she told me. (Klaipeda is on the Baltic Sea and they have an interesting seaside).

Saturday evening I went to the reception desk and asked if we might reserve a taxi. The guy behind the desk laughed at me and said, “This is not airlines. You do not need to reserve taxi. Ha hahaha.” I still love being laughed at by nationals. Okay, so I went to bed.

The next morning David, Cathy and I went to the reception desk and asked for a taxi. The girl on duty was brand new. She wasn’t even from Klaipeda and did not know of any taxi companies. So, she used her phone, went online and found the name of a taxi company.

They had no drivers on duty.

She went back online and found another taxi company and they didn’t answer their phone (I started realizing the genius in reserving a taxi the night before).

Finally, she got a hold of a third taxi company and they said they’d send someone right away. It was a little after 10:00 and services at City Church start at 10:30. We felt we still could make it on time without being late.

At 10:20 our taxi arrived and the driver was a Russian guy who I’m betting had a few ounces of vodka in his system. Probably hadn’t slept much the night before. We piled into the car and he had no idea where we wanted to go.

Now David and Cathy speak fluent Russian because they’ve lived in Moscow for thirteen years. David tells the taxi driver the name of the church.

The taxi driver literally says, “There are many churches in the city.” Not understanding that “City Church” is the church’s name. Also, being Russian he thinks church is a big stinkin’ onion-domed building.

We know enough about City Church to know it is not in a traditional church building—but more like a school. We try to explain. “Nychivu! Nychivu! (No problem). I know where it is.”

But he didn’t.

We headed out of the parking lot lickety split as fast as we could in the wrong direction.

“David?” I say from the back seat.

“Yes?” he responds.

“Isn’t the sea that way?” I ask pointing behind us.

“Yes. Yes it is,” he says and then he starts talking to the driver.

The driver waves his hand in acknowledgement and then says to us, “I need to stop for petrol. I’ll only be a minute.”

It is now 10:30. We are officially late for church.

The driver gets out of the car and David turns to his wife Cathy and me in the back seat and says, “We gotta get rid of this guy. I think he might be drunk or just crazy.” The driver left the meter running while he was getting fuel.

Crazy Russian driver guy gets back into the taxi and heads toward the sea. And then he takes us to an oil storage container. Uh…crazy taxi guy…uh…this isn’t City Church.

“NO?” he asks amazed.

“No!” we all say in three part harmony.

He drives us some more. Finally, David says, “Just take us to the sea. You know where the sea is right?”

“ Kaneshna” (of course I do).”

After too long a time and too much crazy driving in the wrong direction David sees an abandoned building and says, “Hey! That’s it. Just let us off here.”

He turns to us in English and says, “We gotta get out of this cab. He’s racking up the cost and he’s getting us nowhere.”

Cathy and I nodded enthusiastically. We wanted out of that taxi as well.

So crazy Russian driver guy pulls over to the curb and we all jump out. David throws money at him and off the driver goes and there we three are standing on a street corner just looking around. We look up at the street sign and it says Molo. The name the expatriate gave me was Molovo.

“Could they be the same?” I ask David.

“Who knows?” He answers.

Now the great thing about David and Cathy is they love God and they know what it is like to live in a foreign land (though Russia has become their real home).

“Guys. I feel strongly that we are to be in that church.”

David and Cathy say, “We agree.”

We were compelled, propelled; we felt a strong leading to find this place.

“Jesus, please lead us. We don’t know where this place is,” I said out loud. Cathy and David nodded in agreement.

So we start walking on the street called Molo and Cathy is led to stop and ask an old woman who is selling strawberries, “Do you speak Russian?” She did.

“Can you tell us of a hall or a building where people gather on Sunday morning and sing songs and have a church service?”

The old woman thought for a moment and said, “Yes. I think so. Down this street and two bus stops turn right. There is a building where I think people meet on Sunday.”

So we went by faith, two bus stops on Molo Street and turned right. There on the small street was a lovely old building under remodeling and outside were cars and minivans and children playing and college kids with backpacks and two men standing on the front porch passing out limegreen bulletins. David says, “This has to be the place. Everyone knows you can’t have a church service without bulletins!” He smiled.

We walked up the porch steps and were greeted warmly by the bulletin passer-outer-guys. People greeted us and smiled and nodded even if they couldn’t speak English and we couldn’t speak Lithuanian we all understood our connection.

Someone kindly led us up three flights of stairs and we found the sanctuary. A nice young tech guy handed each one of us a headset and explained the church provided simultaneous English translation. We sat down in three chairs near the back and realized that summer services started at 11:00; we were actually 10 minutes early.

We all three breathed a sigh of relief.

The service started and we sang. We stood and prayed and we followed the sermon via our headsets. The girl doing the translation was excellent and very enthusiastic. The message was on the role Lithuanians played in WWII as the government partnered with Hitler to destroy the Jewish population of Lithuania. The pastor said that 136,000 Lithuanian Jews died in WWII because Christian neighbors didn’t speak out or fight to protect them.

“Our nation must ask for forgiveness and we must pray that God will forgive the sins of our fathers and grandfathers and that we might be cleansed to live righteously in His sight.” Wow. Then he talked about prayer and individualism and the oppression that hangs over Lithuania. He talked about the high suicide rate and the alcoholism and drug abuse that plagues their small nation. He spoke about the need for missionaries to come alongside the nationals to train them how to evangelize and how to pray and intercede for their communities. And I was overwhelmed.

After the service people were kind and friendly. And I kept thinking, “My heart is breaking here.” David, Cathy and I made it to the sea. It was wonderful. We ate lunch in a Russian restaurant. It was delicious. And we walked over three miles to get back to the campus. It was a lovely day and we had a great time as we talked again and again about the sovereignty of God and how He got us to that church!

Monday morning after class one of my students fiddled with her backpack until everyone had gone. Then she approached my desk.

“I saw you at church yesterday,” she timidly looked down at the floor.

“Oh!” I said a little too enthusiastically, “Do you attend there?”

“No.” She looked up from the floor. “It is only my second time. But I am seeking. My children love it there, but I am not accustomed to such things. It’s interesting for me but I don’t understand a lot of things there.”

“Really?” I asked. “Like what?” And we talked about the sermon and the music and the message and prayer and my faith in Jesus.

“I was nervous to go there even for a second time. I don’t know anyone there but I am searching for something and my children need something too. I worried yesterday morning if I was making a big mistake in going to that church. It’s not like Orthodox or Lutheran. But when I saw you there and the other professor I felt okay and I thought if they come here it must be okay and I was able to relax a little and listen to the lecture (she meant sermon).”

And I knew then why David and Cathy and I had to be at that service. And I knew then why Daryl and I had to be at that university.

Students around the world are seeking answers and searching for truth. There is only one Truth that can satisfy the longing of the human soul—His name is Jesus and I have the privilege and honor and joy of sharing His love and His hope with students in Lithuania. Please pray for us and please pray for them. In absolute and inexplicable peace.

7 users Responded In This Post

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423. Barbie Buckner said,
July 14th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

WOW….as tears run down my face…I understand that feeling of contentment. Contentment that is not true contentment. Yes I have what I need, Yes I am blessed, but there is a stirring within me as I read this. Teri thank you for your words that are challenging me. Lots to pray about.

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424. Lisa said,
July 14th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

TERI!!!!

I am totally excited for you. Like, jumping up and down. Like, not helping my daughter to the potty because I was in the middle of reading this and then she’s screaming and screaming and I’m thinking I probably need to go take care of that and then having to clean up the accident…

Anyway – if I had been in town you wouldn’t have had so much DRAMA getting to church because I would have just taken you! I love City Church. We were so blessed by that place.

I have so much to say. I am definitely getting on that train to KC Friday (not Saturday!) and we will have to have a long conversation.

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425. prgjohnson said,
July 16th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Love it! Great story re: church and your student! I’m SO glad you’re going to Lithuania!

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426. big sister said,
July 16th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Many moons ago you began your call and went to China. This was full of much sacrifice and yet you never saw the degree of sacrifice or difficulty because you were so happy serving the Lord; you were just focused on the vision and call so great – you had to go…now, all these years later, we both knew you would be returning someday to a place on foreign soil that needed what you willingly and sacrificially desire to give. There is skype now, there is e-mail now and yet somehow I find it a little harder to release you into His hands – once again – trusting His best is THE best. It’s so wonderful that you are going to a place you truly love and enjoy – and you get to go with your soul-mate – D-A-R-Y-L!! I am so proud of you!

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427. Texas sister said,
July 17th, 2010 at 7:48 am

I am SSSOOOOO EXCITED for you both!
I love the story and how you were lead to a totally different worship service by a drunk, crazy Russian, so that a young Mother could feel secure enough to step out in faith. Only God would move that way.

I can picture your beaming face as your students come in the room, they are so blessed to have you.
I am truly giddy about this move for you because of all the people I’ve ever known, and believe me there are many, who’ve gone to serve on foreign soil; you my dear one are truly CREATED FOR IT!
I used to wonder how you could bear the life in KC sometimes and would pray that you wouldn’t grow stagnant.
Daryl, with his huge intelligence and kindness will be a big hit with the locals.

If ya’ll have a cast-off, going away type party please, please let T & I know! We’ll be there with bells on!
Don’t know exactly what that means but my Grandma always said it.
kisses & hugs
c

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428. Lisa F said,
July 18th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

SO EXCITED for you, Teri!! Susan Grice was here this weekend and we were talking about good female speakers & I mentioned you – she knew you, and told me you were going to Lithuania! So I decided it was time to catch up on your blogs :)). It makes so much sense for you to teach – I LOVE that you’ve found such a perfect place to use your God-given gifts. Those Lithuanian students are going to have one of the best teachers there is, in my opinion! What’ll Daryl be doing? I am happy for you.

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435. Lisa Smith said,
July 23rd, 2010 at 7:52 am

I’m with Barbie! Tears in my eyes as I learn what God is doing to and through you! Oh, Teri, my friend! I can’t wait to hear more about this! (I guess you’re clear on the fact that you can continue to Blah-Blah-Blog from Lithuania, right? Right?) I will be praying for a buyer or renter, and that God will continue to release you visibly to go feed those hungry souls!

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