How our lives are changing in 2014

We are doing well. Lois is recovering well from her chemo and radiation and is back to work. Our spirits are good. It helps to have grandkids!

As for my work, as a missionary with Latin America Mission (LAM), I continue to serve Latin American leaders as they serve Christ and care for people, in many parts of the world.  LAM recently merged with United World Mission (UWM). The new mission is global in scope and, because of the entrance of LAM, the majority of UWM looks at the world from Latin America.  Many on the staff are Latin Americans themselves.  UWM carries on LAM’s commitment to do what we do with Latin Americans, and to follow their visions for ministry, because we believe that God is using Latin Americans for the good of the world and for the advance of the gospel.

Personally, this merger means a lot more work for me.  But it is work that I think that all these years of experiences with the growth the the church in Latin American and the growth of the missions commitment of Latin American evangelicals has prepared me to do. I am on the Integration Team that is working on aligning the two missions. This team is led by two of us, who were strategy advisors to the respective presidents of the two missions. We report to John Bernard, President of the new UWM. My main task is to introduce UWM to the more than 80 partner ministries scattered throughout Latin America with whom LAM had partnership arrangements. This means that over the next year I will make sure that the leaders of these ministries, in most of the countries in Latin America, receive a personal visit from me and Alex Araujo my co-leader in this project, or other representatives of LAM and UWM.

Undoubtedly, in the future, I will have a role for envisioning how this newly united ministry builds on the foundation that was laid in our separate histories. The stories are complementary. That is we each bring something the other needs, and together we are more than 350 missionaries, working in 40 countries.  If you count in the partnerships, particularly with Latin Americans, we are in many more than 40 countries, sharing the gospel of God’s blessing to all peoples, and we do it in both words and deeds. We have projects with children at risk, against human trafficking, church planting, leadership development, etc. In all cases, our real specialty is supporting the multiplication of churches, agencies and grass-roots leaders who do these things. More and more the work that gets done is supported locally, which means it is becoming more sustainable.

Thirty-six (36) years ago we were sent as a young childless couple of idealistic missionaries to Brazil.  We have learned a lot in these years and count it a privilege to still be involved.  We owe a great debt to our friends and supporters for sending us on this journey, and to those who faithfully continue to make it possible.   We love to find ways to pay back that debt, especially as we recognize how the increasingly multi-cultural reality of the USA continues to call us to deepen and broaden our understanding of the mission we are called to live out as followers of Christ.  We want to do what we can to help new generations think about how they will be faithful to that mission, too.

A difficult year

This last year was one of the most difficult in our lives.   Just a year ago , I was flying home from Brazil, from one of the most rewarding trips I had ever taken.  The trip combined a creative ministry experiment that was successful, and a very precious and deeply meaningful day with a long time friend.  But, when I got home, it was just in time to rush to Southern California where Lois picked me up at the airport and we went to the hospital to say good-bye to her mother who passed away a day later.  Today is a year since her passing.

Actually, the difficult year has been about 19 months long.  In that time, both Lois’ mom and my own passed away.  We are both orphans now.

As if the loss of her Mom was not enough, just a few weeks later, the doctors discovered Lois had cancer.  So during this past year we spent a lot of time going to doctors.  Lois suffered through treatments that were unimaginably difficult, and she did it with much grace and determination.  I did my best to make sure she got all the love and support she needed to get through, including canceling all my travel.  We pretty much stayed home.  We didn’t send Christmas cards or anything.

Lois’ treatment is over and she is slowly regaining her strength and growing back her hair.  Life is moving back towards normal.

Tomorrow will be my first trip away, since I got home from Brazil.  I will be gone for 10 days to Sweden, as part of my responsibilities with the MIssion Commission of th World Evangelical Alliance.

A blessed year, too!

A big joy was that our grandson, Logan, was born on my Mom’s birthday, just a few months after her passing.  He is a happy boy and is a reminder of the cycle of life and the renewal of generations.

Also, the mission I work for, Latin America Mission, has been going through a deep struggle financially for the last several years.  During the last 3 or 4 months of Lois’ treatment, when I had to just watch from the sidelines, things were looking rather grim, and God brought along another mission agency that knows and appreciates LAM’s legacy.  More importantly, United World Mission (UWM) wants to develop it and grow it.    In the last few weeks the Boards of the two organizations have agreed to bringing LAM into the UWM organization (they like to say UWM “family”, which says a lot).  The integration of the two will get started in the last three months of 2013 and into 2014.    I am very grateful for this.

Finally, our daughter, Emily, who lives in New Zealand is expecting a baby any day now.  We have plans to go visit her once the baby is born.

My comments at Mom’s Memorial

This is an attempt to sum up the meaning of my Mom’s life.  During those last few days that she was with us, I began to think about these verses from I John that help unlock the meaning of my Mom’s life.
Do not love the world, or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world–the desires of he flesh, the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
You all knew my Mom.
1.  Mom was an influencer.
  • The people that she prayed for.
  • The people she taught the Bible  =  At Bible Study fellowship.
  • The people with whom she argued.
  • The people for whom she made things.
  • The people she introduced to each other.

2.  Mom created beauty.  

  • That beauty did not come without a price:  Dumptser diving!  You may hear about the indignity of it from my sisters or me, but the fact was that so much of the beauty she was able to create was made with things that other people threw away.  How did she do that.
  • It wasn’t just things.  It was experiences.  She was good at creating special and memorable experiences.
    • Picnics on the lawn.
    • Party themes.
    • Her Christmas cards weren’t cards.  They were an experience!
  • Creative gifts
3.  Mom gave herself to her family!
  • As a mom, she took us many places — museums, parks, friends.
  • She presided over well-planned, fun birthday parties.  Pin the tail on the donkey, spaceship cakes, etc.
  • She made us a part of her ministry to High School and college kids.  They were always in our home.  They were our friends, too.
  • She let me, as a 16 year old, go to boarding school in Guatemala, a country that was moving into what would become a brutal civil war.
  • She was an incredible grandmother, creating memories, and providing a place where our kids could come, from Brazil or Guatemala and find a place that was familiar and safe.
So here we are today, “celebrating” the life of Pat Halls, even though her life has ended.  We are all richer because of her life, but poorer today because she is no longer with us.  We are celebrating the memory of her life and mourning her passing.
Before I go on with trying to figure out for myself the meaning of the memories we are celebrating, I think it is important to think about her passing.  One cannot avoid the awful reality that both she and my dad, the love of her life, though deserving of honor and respect, were disrespected by the effects of Parkinson’s Disease.  They were taken from us little by little until finally they were gone and in a very undignified way.  The effects of the disease was so evil, and it stole so much from them–things they earned and treasured and deserved , that had it been possible to name someone who had taken so much from them, we could have had that person locked up!  Parkinson’s is a terrible scourge and it seems unfair that they both had to go through it.
One of the amazing things about my Mom was the way she faced her Parkinson’s and the indignity of it all.  She hoped for a day when she would be all put back together and incorruptible, this time.  More importantly, she applied her magic to the people around her.  She was conscious that God kept her in the Health Center at Plymouth Village, precisely for the people around her–and she tried to live that way.  It must have been frustrating though because toward the end it became more difficult for her to add beauty to the place–perhaps because they didn’t let her near the dumpster.  She must have done the right thing with her family, because her family was always coming to spend time with her.
The defining characteristic of her life, was really not any of these things.  The things I have told you about are just a few of the ways she got into our lives. What shaped all of us, through her influence, was rooted her undying (and that is an interesting word to use at a memorial service!), her undying love of God and of the Bible.
Her commitments to God were more than simply something for her.  It would not work to say:  she had her commitments and passions, and I have mine.  Her love and commitment to God, and to the Bible as the Word of God, produced what she produced in our lives.  The result of her commitment to God is that meaningfulness of our own lives was increased.  For her, the important, and lasting impact of her life on us was not about her, but about Him!    
So, lets go back to those verses, this time in my own words:
Don’t love the world or the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, they don’t love the Father (that is God).
The problem with the world is that it is made up of the things you want, the things you want to acquire, and that excitement that comes when you get them.  If you want the world, you are not wanting the Father, and the problem is that the world is passing away, along with the things you desire.
BUT whoever orients their life around what God wants goes on forever.  
Mom redirected her desires, her acquisitions, her excitement and her pride to God.
We all know that it’s not like she didn’t enjoy this world! Life for her was fun. There were lots of fun things to do and she did them.  Things were to be appreciated. Her home was something she took pride in.   But this world was not where she found her hand-hold.  It was not what she grabbed onto.
What Mom wanted, and what Mom got was something lasting, not something that will die, and disappear.  She wanted God.  She did what she did so that she and we would get something that won’t pass away.
In this, she was more than simply a good example of a godly person.  She engaged with each of us to give us something lasting.
You could tell that her love of God was greater than her love of the world in these last years.  She loved it when we read the Bible with her, and sang hymns with her.    That’s why, even when her mind was not working well, she often would turn to me and ask me how I was doing with God, how you were doing with God, and whether each of us was grabbing onto what really matters, what lasts, what does not pass away.
The impact of her life is measured in the answers to her prayers. She prayed quietly for many people.  Some of us were lucky enough to notice how her prayers were answered in their lives.  The impact of her life was in the people that she helped reorient their own lives around God and around the Bible.  That is why, in these last few weeks, when people who knew her and mentioned her commitment to God, she would smile and glow. She would wake up and get more lucid.   What got her going was when you and me would see God and choose to value Him above things we might want, buy or take pride in.
I want to tell you a story.  Just about two years ago, we got that dreaded phone call, “It’s time to come if you still want to see Mom alive.” So the four kids and others rushed to her side.  And she was not doing well.  She couldn’t talk to us, and seemed to be going downhill fast.  We sang hymns, read scripture, all the things that brought joy to Dad.  But she was pretty unresponsive, as I recall.  As we wondered what to do, we asked other people more experienced in the process of the end of life.  They suggested we gather and pray for Mom, thank God for her life, say our good-byes and generally let her know that things would be OK.   That we would carry on without her and that she had done her work well.
So we went to her room and each of us prayed for her, through tears.  It is important for you to know that she hadn’t spoken to us for a couple of days.  When the last of us had prayed, she sat up in bed and said, “I want to pray, too!”   And she prayed for each of us.  She told stories about us, and encouraged us to keep close to God.  And she lived another 2 years!
That afternoon we sang with her.  Not hymns.  We sang “These boots are made for walking!”
She was more than simply a good example of a godly person.  She engaged with each of us to give us something lasting.
Her love of God and commitment to Him is why everyone of us in this room has anything to say about her–that’s one important way that she goes on forever.  It’s not simply that we can envision her in heaven.  The Bible doesn’t actually say some of the things we try to imagine about her today–being reunited to Dad, no more wheelchair–etc.  We imagine those things based on the hope of resurrection.
But we don’t have to imagine what we can see:  the permanence of her life is visible to us in the effects of her life on each of us.  What we got from her that is of value came to us through her love of God and her commitment to Him–as we were drawn to permanence by the things she did:  influence, beauty, family and friends and Jesus Christ
What she constantly wanted us to recognize is that our lives can go in one of two directions.   We can pass away along with the world, or we can latch onto God and last, as He does.  She didn’t just give us an example, but actively involved herself in giving us the only thing that will last–love for God.
This celebration is not about her passing, but about the world’s passing.

Mom went to be with her Lord.

I am an orphan!  That’s kind of a tough thought to incorporate into my being, especially within a month of turning 60.  It’s like life is already getting short.  Just when it was getting fun.

I am an orphan because on February 27 my Mom joined my Dad in death.  Having followed Jesus as His disciples, they passed on to us the hope that they would also follow Jesus in his resurrection.  But we are sad they are gone, devastated by the way bodies wear out and finally quit on us.   Beyond just looking forward to eventual resurrection, we also want to live like they did.  I cannot believe all the stories of how my mom inspired people to live close to God, to be creative, and to enjoy life.  Even better are the stories of how she loved and prayed for people around her, all the time, and with great effect.  I think I am only now becoming aware of the extent of the impact of her prayers.  Her life goes on because in the lives of the rest of us, in life, her prayers and actions were a constant in our lives.  That’s why I like this picture of her with Parker and Angela.

My sisters and I invite you to celebrate her life with us in Redlands, CA on March 24.

Christmas Greetings

The birth of Jesus is about promises God kept.

God continues to keep His promises to provide a way out for people, like each of us, who have trouble keeping ours.
Humankind is in kind of a mess right now, but God keeps on fulfilling His promises.
During this year, we have seen him keep promises to our family, and we look expectantly to him to see how He will make good on his promise to bless all of mankind.
May Christmas be a time in which you see God at work, actively fulfilling promises to do good to all those who need and depend on Him.
Tim & Lois
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
Greetings from New Zealand where we are visiting Emily and Erlo right now.

2011 Family News at Christmas

Lois and I are in New Zealand for Christmas.  We will spend Christmas with our daughter Emily who lives in Auckland.

Emily met Erlo Jones when they were both teaching English in Korea, and they got married this last April in Koh Samui, Thailand.

Erlo is a Kiwi (a New Zealand citizen, born in South Africa), and they both found jobs here in New Zealand.  Our first few days here with them have been a wonderful time for us to learn about their lives, and to discover some of the beauty of this lovely country.  We will spend Christmas with them, and with Erlo’s parents in Rotorua.

Before we left, we celebrated Christmas with our daughter Angela, son-in-law Shaun and little Parker.  They live close by in San Jose, California and we enjoy visiting them regularly and getting grandparent time with Parker.

We will miss spending Christmas with Marian, this year.  She will be coming to California from Madison, WI, where she is working on her dissertation, but we will only catch one day with her.   She leaves just one day after we get home.

But we did have a great time with her at Thanksgiving.  Some friends loaned us their cabin in Arnold, CA, for us to spend a week with the family.  Lois’ mom, Eleanore Holderman, joined us for the whole week.
Tim’s mom, Pat Halls, continues living at Plymouth Village in Redlands, CA.  He gets down to visit her every month or so.  Just before we left for New Zealand he went there to deliver a gift that Lois made, and that made her very happy!

One more very important thing.  We celebrated 35 years of marriage this last summer, with a visit to Montana.  In addition to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, we visited four universities in Montana.

We are grateful for God’s incredible and abundant generosity and mercy toward us.

And we are grateful to all of you who are part of our lives and for your prayers and support.