Thursday, July 27, 2006

Okay! Okay!....

Alright! So we'll try to do better updating our blog.

Seriously, please forgive us. Life can so quickly get away from us here that we forget to take care of this little internet wonder. Cristy is much more organized that I am about life, but with taking care of Isaiah and lots of other things she rarely has time to sit down and blog. And me being a card-carrying member of the A.D.D. society so often forget. So from now on I'll try to blog at least once a week.

The month of June was particularly busy. I was involved with a number of youth events at the church, and a mission trip down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help with work going on there. But in the midst of all of that we found out that Isaiah was going to need his shunt revised. To top it all off Cristy, on a Saturday evening was suddenly struck with a kidney stone. She was in immense pain, so we rushed her to the hospital making it home at about 3am Sunday morning.

To make a long story short, she was able to get some relief from the stone with medicines, but I left for the mission trip Monday afternoon, and she still hadn't passed it. I returned back to Yazoo City on Wednesday night in time for Isaiah's shunt surgery on Thursday morning. All went very well and we only had to spend one night in the hospital.

We had been planning to leave for North Carolina on Saturday June 24th before all of this happened. The doctor said that Isaiah was fine to travel, but we were uncertain what to do because of Cristy's situation. We prayed and subsequently decided to go ahead and go since it would probably be Christmas before we could make a trip out there again. Well, thank the Lord, Cristy gave birth to a 4mm kidney stone in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Our trip was so very enjoyable and relaxing. We really just enjoyed visiting. I got to both teach Sunday School and preach at Cristy's old home church of Beacon Baptist. Cristy also got to teach a ladies Sunday School class and talk to the youth on Wednesday night. We also took a day and went to visit Old Salem, and we even got to go to a baseball game while we were there.

We returned home where I had about a month to finish off my youth duties at the church. For those of you who don't know, I'm no longer the youth director at First Presbyterian Church. I'll still be doing choir there, but for the remainder of our time in Yazoo City, I'm going to be doing that and I'll be a part-time teachers assistant for a 6th - grade class at a local Christian School. I'm very excited about this opportunity. I'll talk more about this in a moment.

On the home front here, Isaiah continues to grow and develop quite well. On all of his cognative evaluations he is developing normally which means there is no indication thus far of slowed mental development. We pray that this will continue.

As expected, though, there is some slowness in his physical development. He does have a considerable amount of movement in his legs, but it is only, thus far, to a limited capacity. He extends his legs quite well, but rarely is able to pull them up closer to his body. This, of course, is all part of spina bifida, so it is not unexpected. On a good note, being able to extend his legs is a good indication that he'll be able to stand on his own one day. Quite honestly though, we take this one day at a time. The more we learn and study, the more we learn that spina bifida is a strange thing. What appears to work today is no guarantee of tomorrow, which in some ways is good and in some ways is bad. Therefore, we do not trust in statistics. We are so very very thankful for what we have right now and what the Lord enables Isaiah to do.

After about two weeks at home we made a short trip to Baton Rouge to visit my family there. We were able to spend a Friday and a Saturday visiting with my whole family. While we were there also we were able to get a new laptop computer! Already this has been a blessing to our ministry.

Which brings us now the question, "How are things going with your Russia plans?" The answer to that is "great!" We are not about 1/3 of the way there on our support (118 days), and we continue to get support pledges from various people. We are also planning to visit some more churches here in the near future to share our vision for our work there.

Right now our plans are the same as they were before; we plan to leave for Russia August 1, 2007, and move to St. Petersburg for about 2 years so that we can study language and be close to the Polyenov Clinic there to care for Isaiah's needs.

Also, for those of you who might be interested, we now have a couple of "fun" things you can get that are associated with our ministry. These things make great conversation pieces at family reunions. Also, get one of our T-shirts and strike up a conversation on a plane with a stranger about the poor souls you exiled to Siberia! Seriously, check it out at

Finally, what about all of this teaching stuff? Well, first, let me say that nothing is wrong. My being able stop doing the youth work at First Pres is actually a gift to both Cristy and I that essentially frees us up more to prepare for the mission field. My work teaching will only be part-time during the week and will allow us to visit more churches and make more contacts, as well us allow us more time together as a family to prepare. I'll be teaching History, Science and Bible to a 6th-grade class all school year.

In addition, there are a number of other ministry opportunities I'm hoping to be involved in this next year. There is a group of young guys at the local private academy that are hoping to get together and form an accountability group for the upcoming school year. I'm kind of spear-heading this endeavour, but already there's been a good response of about 8 guys who want to participate and who are serious about walking with the Lord. Please be in prayer for this.

Well, it's getting late and I'm getting tired. I hope this suffices until next week.

In Christ,
Thomas for the Slawson clan (Cristy and Isaiah)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Mary Poppins School of Youth Ministry

On July 4th Cristy and I spent the afternoon with our friends the Gilberts. David and Michelle have four young girls age 4 months to 5 years. About three days a week Cristy goes over with Isaiah to walk and visit with Michelle and the girls. David pastors at Second Presbyterian church here in Yazoo City. Over the course of the last year and a half we've all grown quite close as friends. We've even joked about an arranged marriage between their newest daughter Savanah and Isaiah. So yesterday we enjoyed the fouth of July holiday at their home, complete with BBQ, coleslaw, baked beans, apple pie, etc.

During the festivities I walked back into the girls' playroom to see what they were up to. As you can imagine, there were toys all about, stuffed bears, kittens, puppies, bows, naked barbies, baby dolls (I fear for Isaiah three days a week), hair brushes, beauty play things, etc. The girls were watching the old Disney movie Mary Poppins on the television and it was just coming to the end of the movie when I caught an interesting conversation between Mary and her umbrella just as she's about to leave. She looks on happily but sadly as the children she has nannied run off hand-in-hand with their father to "go fly a kite." The conversation goes...

Umbrella: "That's gratitude for you. Didn't even say good-bye"
Mary: "No, they didn't"
Umbrella: "Look at them. You know, they think more of their father than they do of you."
Mary: "That's as it should be."

The last time I saw this movie was probably about 15 years ago, but now, watching it as an adult, this last part of the movie struck me as significant.

For those who have never seen the movie I shall summarize. The story takes place in 1910 in England at the home of the Banks family. The father, George, is a busy and successful businessman in the banking world, while the mother is heavily involved in the women's liberation movment. As a result of their busy and disconnected their two children, Jane and Michael, are quite literally being raised by an endless barrage of Nannies, all of whom don't last very long because of their frustration with the two children. One day the "wind" changes and in walks (or rather "flies") this mysterious and fascinating woman named Mary Poppins, ready to take the Job of Nanny for the Banks family. She engages in the task of being their Nanny, but not in the traditional way. Her methods of teaching the children ultimately serve to "mend" the whole family. She teaches the children and at the same time she teaches the parents so that at the end of the movie she leaves having accomplished her work. The parents, especially the father, come to realize the priority of loving and raising their kids personally. Mary Poppins silently slips from the scene with a smile on her face and a sense of accomplishment.

Now, this is just a silly movie, and, of course, not everything corresponds. Mary Poppins referrs to herself in the movie as "practially perfect in every way." There's words like "supercalifragilisticexpialadocious" and people flying around with umbellas, but aside from all of the fantasy and frilly things there's a profound point that even the secular world realizes here. Parents have the first and foremost responsibility to love and train their children. The most profound molding and shaping influence in a child's life will be his parents, particularly his father.

Malachi 4:5-6 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse."

It is unfortunate that the current sentiment in most churches today is that a youth director is "needed." It seems that most parents assume that their "teenagers" are going to be rebellious, hard-headed, and rough during the sensitive and influential years of 13-18. They expect that this will happen and so they shoot for that mark. But the sad truth is that anytime one shoots to miss he will hit every time. So to rememdy the problem a youth director is sought out; someone who the child can "relate to." And so someone is brought in who is supposed to become the spiritual mentor of the children to whom he is serving, thus winning their hearts.

Now, let me say, I don't necessarily have a problem with brothers and sisters in Christ being spiritual mentors to younger people within the church. This is scriptural and good. But what bothers me is when a child begins to esteem, respect and, in all practicallity, look up to his youth director more than his father and mother. This is not how the covenant family is supposed to function. It is supposed to be a home where the gospel is proclaimed and taught personally. It is to be the institution of a "little church" where the father serves as the guiding shepherd of his family. The ages of 13-18 ought to be the ages where fathers are winning the hearts of their children, not a young college graduate.

But, sadly, this is not how things have progressed over the past decades. Parents all-too-often assume that their children will rebel and not respect them during the teenage years, and children do just that. So the fact of the matter is that someone else is needed. The question is "Needed to do what?"

That's what struck me about the closing words of Mary Poppins. She came to do a job in the Banks family, and that job was very specific. She was not there to win over the children and draw them further away from their father. For a season she filled the gaps where he was not present, but all the while she was carefully working to remold the childrens' thinking and the thinking of their father's. The result is that, at the end of the movie, she fades into the background while the affections of the children are once again returned to their father, and the affections of the father are once again returned to his children.

Now this, of course, does not address the excpetions. This is not talking about homes where there is no father, or the father is not a believer. Indeed, in these situations there is a real need for someone to fill the gaps, and perhaps more permanently. This is rather addressing the covenant family where the father and mother are faithful believers.

The average youth director is in a church 2-3 years, but fathers are normally there much longer. How much stronger our families and young people would be if every youth director out there learned from Mary Poppins. How much better things would be if we worked with the goal of eliminating our own jobs.