Friday, February 11, 2011

valentines early.....

Valentine's day is focused on using cards, candy, flowers, and gifts to tell the people in your life that you love them. To tell a stranger...well that's not supposed to be the plan. I haven't seen Valentines Day to be a big deal here in Mandeville, Jamaica. Many holidays are American generated and sustained. Since this isn't little America we don't see the commercialism. Denny and I can handle an American holiday to not exist but when you have children, well that is a different story. I can't just run to the local store and plan to find something on Monday morning for Renee. When you live in a different country you have to start thinking way ahead! Fun Fun!

We know that we are in Jamaica according to God's plan. We know that 4 years is a long time, but not so long that when discouraged you know just around the corner of another year you will be home itinerating all over again. Missionaries are an unusual bunch! A missionary can pack their bags and leave comforts and conveniences of home and plunge forward to the unknown. Missionaries can survive not having healthy budgets, they can live on a shoestring in a country that is very expensive. Missionaries don't have to use electricity and even have water every day. Missionaries can wear the same clothes and shoes for 4 years and not be bothered. Missionaries don't expect much in return, except that the burden to minister cross-culturally never lessens. Missionaries are an unusual bunch! A missionary can plug along without praise and "stuff" for a pretty long time.

So when a call comes out of the blue like the one we had it was pretty amazing! Let me tell you about it!

A week ago Den received an email from missionary friends in Springfield, MO. They said that their friends were going on a cruise and would port in Jamaica for one day and would like to spend $50. and bring a missionary something. "Would you have something in mind that they could bring you?" We were very surprised and wondered what it was all about. We were kind of perplexed as the missionary friends gave us the information. How do you call a stranger and say, could you bring me a can of shortening! There are just so many things that we cannot find here and our list could have been...well should I say interesting. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like we should focus on Renee who never complains and goes without so many things and happenings like Youth group, camps, or regular teen-age things as a missionary kid.

Time was of the essence as this couple was going to be leaving their home in a couple of days to begin their vacation. So we began to toss things out there and thought of some things that would be nice to receive unexpectedly! The second evening after having this information I wondered, "what would make Renee smile?"

I thought of a valentine "Build a Bear" for Renee, a walmart box of candy for me and maybe a dvd for Den. We didn't expect all those things, just whatever they could find under $50. Things that we can't get here but things that would make us all giddy! Den called the couple the next day and because of the ice and snow in Dallas they were going to start their journey that day to get to Galveston. The wife said that they would do their best to find the items. I really wondered if they would be able to find a Build a Bear store enroute so I didn't say anything to Renee. I hate to dash expectations!

On Wednesday of this week Den taught till 1:00, Renee went to school till lunch time and we started our journey to the cruise ship!! We were so excited we could hardly stand it! We had no idea who the family was. We had no idea if this was really gonna work. All we knew is that we were to meet them in Montego Bay between 3 and 3:30 at the security area near the ship.

When we arrived we were not sure of where to go. So after asking the guards on duty and explaining why we were there, we planted ourselves in one spot and boy was it hot. Because we came upon an accident we were late. We could see 2 ships from where we were, we just couldn't get through the traffic to get there. We eventually arrived at 3:40 and didn't see anyone nearby waiting for us. So we waited and waited and waited. Unbeknownst to us, the couple was waiting and waiting and waiting in the hot sun somewhere else! At 5:00 one of the security guards came over and said, "there is the couple that is looking for you!" Here they come walking toward us! We were so excited and yet so humiliated that we were the cause of them standing in the hot sun for nearly 2 hours.

Here is the story! David and Carolyn attend Oaks Fellowship in Texas and a couple of months ago their pastor challenged the church with a campaign, ACT NORMAL, An Exercise in Compassion. The promo has this line.."It's moving compassion from niche to norm." The promo also says that ACT NORMAL is not only about opportunities but about action. It is taking compassion to another level in your personal life. Along with the idea of "doing" like raking leaves or volunteering at a pet shelter, the campaign includes spending $50 on someone that would come to mind during the yearlong challenge, such as filling someones gas tank, buying $50 of groceries for someone, investing in a soup kitchen, etc. Little did we ever realize that God had this little Seler family in mind when the pastor introduced the challenge. In the realm of life, such a little thing, but monumental for us at this time.

Missionaries can be very lonely people. They do a lot of cross cultural things and ministry, ministering in many situations, making many acquaintances but not having a "heart" friend, one who understands your culture, your framework, your background, etc. Missionaries can tend to be very guilt ridden. If I do find a Dr. Pepper and consider spending an outrageous amount of money to buy it, compared to how much it would be in America, I am not being a good steward, or like ice cream or something non essential and then compare the price of that soda to what an average person makes here and you wrestle with justifying the expenditure. Missionaries can live in disconnect. Family members just don't understand the dynamic of leaving everything to go somewhere that they have never visited and think that it is any different than America. For example, we don't live on an Army base where everything is shipped in for our comfort or what do you mean it takes a month to get the car inspected, what do you mean, you go to cash a check and the bank doesn't have sufficient cash, and the list continues with things people just can't understand until they are in the situation.

When something like this Valentine blessing happens, you remember...God does know my name and He knows where I live!

As we watched Dave and Carolyn walk up the road I noticed something in his hand but couldn't tell what it was. He said to Renee (as if he already knew her), "Do you know what this is?" Her eyes got big as he began to unfold that Build a Bear house box! She squealed as Carolyn pulled a valentine bear out of her tote bag! It was a moment to remember! This valentine blessing was just what the doctor ordered!

We then proceeded to a little Island Grill to give our new friends a taste of Jerk Chicken! Over our little snack, they didn't want to eat too much as they would be eating dinner on the ship, Carolyn pulled more goodies out of her bag! A box of candy, oh how I miss Hersheys, a Celine Dion cd and a Narnia DVD. We were silly, we were so excited. Then they began to tell us about the church challenge and how it had changed their lives. As a matter of fact, I don't think I will ever forget Dave saying, "This is our 18th cruise, how I wish I had blessed a missionary in those ports of call before." The next day they were going to port at the Cayman Islands and so guess what? Another missionary family was going to be blessed by Dave's $50 ACT NORMAL gift. We were the receivers of Carolyn's $50. I wonder if the Cayman Islands missionaries asked for something as trivial as we did. Probably not!!

When Dave and Carolyn shopped for us I doubt that she set out to make this our best Valentine's day yet, but she did it!! Another little side note, they were cruising with another couple and they wanted to be in on the blessing so they bought the candy for me!

Den sent an email thanks the next day and when I read it I cried. Den told me that when he wrote it, he cried. Dave and Carolyn had no idea how dry our ground was, how desperately we needed to sit and chat. How they blessed Renee, wow, they were there with her and still they will never realize what they said to speak into her life. Here is an excerpt from Den's email to these wonderful people.

".......I don’t know that I will ever forget the smile and joy on my daughter’s face as you asked her about a simple cardboard box. Her squeal of delight was so obvious. The two of you gave her a very special moment and even more a long-term memory of her experience in Jamaica. Thank you so much. Your speaking into her life the words of encouragement as you referenced your daughter and Quentin and Elizabeth’s girls and their education was equally special. She is in a very significant life formation time as she sorts out her future – your words were so welcomed.David and Carolyn, you will never realize how much your kindness, generosity and presence meant to this missionary family. We will cherish the memory – thank you."

Well... to say that valentine blessing surprised us, encouraged us, and gave us love is an understatement...thanks Dave and Carolyn!

They wanted a photo in front of the STL car!

Renee and Shortcake enjoyed the journey back to Mandeville!


  1. Wow, what a great story and testimony! Thanks!

  2. We read this last night and cried. Of all the cruises, of all the tours, this was by far our most memorable. The Selers have blessed us by doing God's work. We are humbled to be called their friends.
    David and Carolyn.

    PS Renee can recite pi to 101 digits!

  3. And I cried as i sit here in a meeting in Panamá. This "act normal" thing isn't anything new in David & Carolyn's life! They have blessed us SO much in SO many ways with their generosity. Our daughters have lived with them, been supported by them, run to them for help and advise for many years. I knew this meeting would be a blessing to Denny and Debby as soon as i they asked me if i knew any missionaries in Jamaica. It sent chills up my spine seeing those pics of Renee. Thanks D & D for sharing this story. Thanks D & C for all you have done. Thanks Jesus for Your family all over the world.

  4. i just saw the comments to our beautiful Valentine blessing. Love to all of you who wrote and appreciated the spirit of this little blog post...