After my last blog update, the reality of one of the lessons my wife and I learning down here on the field revolves around the idea or learning to receive. This may sound ludicrous to some, “you’re a missionary, all you do is receive in order to give yourself to others!” While this may be true, there is a very deep sense of our humanness that still wants to hold on, that still wants to feel ‘in control’ despite our need to be in deep submission and in love with our Saviour as we serve abroad. Margy and I love to serve, but the reality is that sometimes we have struggled to accept being served well.
I previously touched on the the conundrum we’ve faced here as missionaries who’ve had an increasing amount of responsibility place on our shoulders. At the same time you all deserve to be kept in the loop, updated and communicated with as you have sacrificially given of yourselves to give us the privilege that we have to serve here in Bolivia. Thank you for your patience and faithfulness to the ministry. In light of the realities we face here on the field and the lessons God is teaching us personally, allow us to share a letter/update we’ve received from a fellow missionary & friend:
Harry Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I realize I’m starting off a post to a predominantly Canadian audience with a quote from a US president. From the get go, you should know that I tend to make cultural missteps like that. So do a lot of missionaries.
My husband and I have only been missionaries for six short months. My husband was a fighter pilot in the US Air Force and I was an attorney. Just this year we came to Bolivia to serve with South America Mission where we have had the privilege to serve with Sam and Margy Tse.
In some ways, I still feel like a bit of an outsider looking in at this missionary world, sort of like an imbedded reporter. One thing I’ve noticed is that missionaries struggle to share with their supporters. There is an inherent conflict missionaries face. Supporters should know what their missionaries are doing, but no one, least of all missionaries, wants to brag about their accomplishments. It’s a Catch-22.
So now you’ve got two particular insights, thanks to my undercover reporting: 1) missionaries, especially new missionaries, make a lot of cultural missteps; and 2) missionaries face a Catch-22 when deciding how and what to share with their supporters back home.
This leads me back to that Truman quote, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” This quote immediately brings to mind the Tses and their service here in Bolivia. My family has personally been so blessed by them that I have asked to write to you and share with you. I imagine this takes Sam and Margy well out of their comfort zone, as they are both humble and service-oriented. They’ve agreed to let me write this, as long as Sam retains editorial control. (To which I say, don’t do it, Sam!)
I’m sure as friends, family and supporters, you are already well aware of how they both seek to glorify God in all that they do. But I wonder how much of the day to day, “in the trenches” stuff you actually see. I’m sure there is so much more than what I’ve personally seen, but I would like to share with you from our family’s very grateful perspective. Because we have been in the trenches with the Tses and you deserve to know: You are backing the right horse.
Did you catch that? Yep, I used a horse racing analogy in a missionary prayer letter. So let’s start with the obvious issue of what the Tses have to deal with: people like me.
In case you aren’t aware, about one year ago, Sam was named the “Interim Field Chair for Bolivia.” It’s a pretty fancy title, but what it essentially means is that just after 6 months of serving and adjusting to a new country, he was asked to step in as the boss…of all of us missionaries in Bolivia. This means he has the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day operations, from the minute details to the major decisions. Back in Canada, this would be a massive undertaking. In Bolivia, “massive undertaking” is the tip of the iceberg. Along with all the intricacies of a young blended family, life is much harder in Bolivia. To be clear, not all missionaries fall into the “people like me” category, but I think it’s fair to say that Sam finds his plate overflowing on the personnel side. I’ve seen Sam step into the role of father figure, administrator, teacher, legal advisor, financial counselor, strategist… as I write this, I realize I could fill a page with descriptors of his different roles.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Sam has resuscitated our mission field. I want to be careful not to disparage anyone who came before, as I believe it was in large part due to external factors. But, for whatever reason, this mission field was in a pretty sorry state. Sam has diligently and tirelessly worked to revive, reorganize and revitalize our field. I know that our family would likely not have remained in Bolivia, were it not for the Tses and the improvements they have made. To be clear, there are many wonderful and hardworking missionaries here who are doing good work. But frankly put:
Leading and serving those who serve is a demanding and thankless job. It is a job that Sam is doing exceedingly well.
Apart from his field leadership, I’ve seen Sam preach in a large Bolivian church with such passion and God-driven truth that nearly one hundred Bolivians came forward to pray for God to use them for His service. I’ve seen him touch the lives of the many Bolivian and missionary kids with whom he interacts, whether through coaching or other volunteer positions. They respect him and want to emulate him. He is an incredible role model and mentor for many, many young men.
Margy. likewise, is sharing her gifting with our field. Of course, her primary ministry is their two beautiful children, Mateo and Victoria. But Margy also has an impact that is literally life saving. She is a highly skilled physician who has, in a volunteer capacity, helped many others. Recently, my in-laws came to visit. Unbeknownst to them, my mother-in-law was infected with West Nile Virus just days before their flight. It is a life-threatening illness when it affects the brain and requires critical early intervention. Margy made a house-call and immediately had my mother-in-law admitted to the hospital. There, for ten days, Margy selflessly oversaw and coordinated her care. She spent hours providing medical care without even the hint of payment. She even ensured continuity of care after my mother-in-law was transferred to a US hospital.
Margy saved my mother-in-law’s life.
Words fail to express the depth of our gratitude.
Margy is also volunteering with a Christian-based fitness center to provide nutritional and fitness counseling from a biblical perspective. She will soon begin teaching as a “visiting professor” (meaning unpaid) at the Bolivian Evangelical Medical School. I have seen first hand how she is able to connect with other professionals who are seeking the Lord. She has an innate ability to connect in this way and I look forward to seeing how these positions will segue into other opportunities for her to share with and impact others for Christ.
I could go on, listing all the amazing ways that the Tses are serving those around them. But, since I’ve already quoted a US president instead of a Canadian Prime Minister and used a horse-betting analogy to assure you that you’re supporting stellar missionaries, perhaps, I would do well to err on the side of brevity.
It has been a privilege and a blessing to serve in Bolivia with the Tse family. They have impacted our lives, the lives of the other missionaries and the lives of countless Bolivians through their incredible selflessness. Although it is mighty presumptive of me (I told you I make a lot of missteps), I think Truman’s quote can even be improved upon to reflect the genuine Christian spirit in which the Tses serve:
It is amazing what you can accomplish when God alone gets the glory.
That is the very heart of the Tses’ ministry and we have been privileged to serve along side them.
Thank you for sending them here, for supporting them, for loving them, encouraging them and for praying for them. You are indeed backing the right horse.
A grateful sister in Christ,
Want to support the Tse Family?
They need both prayer and financial support. Click the link below to see their official SAM missionary page and to donate: