Reality television has become a magnet that pulls us into other people's lives and America has been loving it for over a decade. Shows about celebrities gone wrong, the Duggar family with 19 kids and counting, competitions and of course the sad resounding gong of another shocking season of the Bachelor or Bachelorette finding true love... and we know how that goes... or doesn't. What will they come up with next?!
I wish I could make a plea with the "big guys" in TV for a show that documents a mission family raging war not only for lost souls but against the tarantulas, mold and thieves trying to enter their home in Malawi, Africa. The family that I'm talking about is that of Rebecca Wendland, the author of Bloom Where God Plants You. Since I was a child I have been interested in non-fiction books, other cultures and mission work so this book held obvious interest to me.
Bloom Where God Plants You is an easy read because Rebecca's writing feels like you reading a letter from a family member. I felt like I had access to her private emails and in fact - I did. Rebecca was encouraged by her family to put her clever and informative emails of her family's life in Malawi into a book for others. I am so glad she did!
"If someone had told me that someday I would settle on the far side of the sea, eat bugs, poison myself, hold over a dozen scorpions in my hand, stand barefoot by a tarantula and allow a wall spider to spend the night above my pillow, I would have laughed. Those antics are for people who compete for prize money on television! No amount of money could entice me to do such things!" (Introduction, xi)
You see, the motivation for Rebecca to follow her husband's calling to serve the Lord wasn't for money. Her treasure is in heaven. Rebecca understands Matthew 6:19-21 in a REAL every day life way -
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Electricity, phone connection and water availability is not a daily (or weekly) given in Rebecca's home and those themes are consistent throughout the book. I found them a bit redundant at first and learned that's kind of the point. I'm reading it over and over. Rebecca and her family are living it over and over. This is "reality book reading" and hardly a dull moment! I enjoy the light-hearted writing and funny tales she includes as they break up some of the heavy content.
Rebecca shares how God leads her family through travel, pregnancies, continual health threats, cultural barriers and most importantly growing our Christian family. Reading the hills and valleys of life in Africa really convicted me of my own complaints and daily conveniences that I take for granted.
Throughout the book I wondered, how does Rebecca do it? How does she cook without electricity or water? How does she sleep when her husband is still not home after dark? Does she have friends?
The answers lie in the bible passages and hymn verses that she inserts that speak directly to the fears and blessings of her life. The best part is that they relate to our lives as well - whether over seas or right at home.
"Jeremiah 17 reminds me that whatever comes my way - whether issues with health, security or separation - can be weathered if my roots are planted in the life giving stream of God's Word.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17: 7-8 My goal wasn't to be the most productive and beautiful tree around, but it was obvious that life on a mission field would either wither me or toughen me up pretty quickly. One thing was for certain: I had to keep myself rooted in God's promises." (Chapter 3, p. 54)
My best take away from reading Bloom Where God Plants You is a heightened awareness of the need for workers in world missions and the finances it takes to support them. There are people right now in Africa who want to have a church to spread the gospel and cannot because they do not have the training, leadership or funds. There is too much work for one man or a family to do on their own.
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Luke 10:2
God's words are true. Let's not forget to ask Him to send workers and how we personally can be moved to serve and bloom where God plants us.
Click below to buy Rebecca's book on Amazon!
About the author: Rebecca Wendland is the wife of WELS Missionary Robert Wendland, who was called to serve the Lutheran Church of Central Africa in Malawi, Africa in 2003. Before moving to Africa, Wendland earned a teaching degree from Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, and taught at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School in Jackson, Wisconsin and Redemption Lutheran School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her teaching skills are used daily in raising their four children. She and her family currently live in Blantyre, Malawi, Africa.
Click here to keep updated and read blog posts from the WELS Africa mission.