Recently I read P.K. Hodel’s amazing book Simply My Window (and my wife is reading the book now). You can read my review of Simply My Window here.
I have known P.K. (Pam) for years. She and her husband Mark (Harrison in the book) attend the same church as my wife and I do and we are in the same small group on Sunday evenings. However, reading the book I realized that I really didn’t know them very well.
I recently had a chance to reach out to Pam and ask her some questions about the book. If you have not yet read the book, I hope reading Pam’s responses will prompt you to read it.
You use the metaphor of windows throughout the book. How did you come to see your life through the lens of windows?
We commonly speak of the lens through which we view life, even as you did in your question. Because the immediate view outside the window in any locale is physical and tangible, I simply use the window itself as the lens that alters our perception of the seen. A more specific way that I came to use the window metaphor for my book took place during a session with a counseling pastor. While reviewing our lives together, this pastor asked Harrison how it looks out his window. As Harrison expressed the view from his window, I was dumbstruck by the vast difference between our views as we had stood next to one another for the past thirty years.
You write about Pastor Bob Smart coming to visit you on the mission field. What does that mean to a missionary when their pastor comes to visit them where they are laboring?
It is difficult to adequately express the full significance of a pastor visiting a missionary on the field. The physical presence of both pastors who visited us, in Tanzania and Laos, respectively, turned their words into deed. For them, it turned what they had heard from us into seeing and experiencing it personally, causing our hearts to join together in much deeper and meaningful ways. A pastor’s visit to missionaries on the field validates them and the reality of their work.
How can the church encourage missionaries when they are on the mission field and when they are on furlough?
Financial support makes the physical presence of missionaries on the field possible. Sincere prayer makes the spiritual presence of missionaries on the field successful. Personal communication in any form can do wonders for the missionary’s emotional well-being, especially if it is authentic and doesn’t communicate unrealistic expectations.
While missionaries are on furlough I believe the church can be most encouraging by treating the missionaries as regular people rather than placing them on a pedestal as some sort of celestial beings. Treating them as fellow fallen humans leaves all the glory to God and also helps keep down the temptation to accept praise that is not due to man.
Your time in Tibet, especially how it ended with you being unjustly accused, and then the time at Link Care in Fresno, was hard to read. I can’t imagine what it was like to live through. How do you look back at that time now?
As I look back at that time now, I don’t see myself as being unjustly accused. I see the entire experience as being a part of God’s beautiful plan for my life – one that helps shape me for a fruitful future of service in His Kingdom.
What would you say has been your greatest joy as a missionary?
My greatest joy has been those brief moments when I’ve known for certain that I’m in the center of Beauty’s Palm.
What advice would you have for someone considering a life as a missionary?
To the person considering a life as a missionary, my advice would be to get alone on your knees before God and seriously examine the motives of your heart.
I read with interest about your window at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois (which my wife and I attended and the town we live in). You write that it was one of the most effective views in your life. Why so?
There’s the old saying that one can be so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good. I consider my time at Illinois State University, after living many years on the mission field, to have been an experience of effectively watching the rubber meet the road – that is, of my ‘heavenly mind’ collide with earthly reality.
You and your family did, saw and experienced so much during your fifteen plus years in Africa. As you reflect back on that time now, what do you most fondly remember?
I have so many fond memories of our fifteen years as a family unit in East Africa! Perhaps most fondly, I recall our experiences during the early years in Tanzania – the awesome beauty of African wildlife, the camaraderie of developing relationships with those of diverse nationalities and ethnicities, living life together in the rich rural setting of Tanzania.
You write about having some things in common with the elder brother depicted in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which I do as well. Tell us about that.
Having lived as an ‘obedient girl’ all my life, there came a time when I realized I was missing a good deal of the joy of abundant living by resenting the easy forgiveness of the hopeless sinner. Ironically, I believe it was my selfish desire for fullness of joy that caused me to realize that my inability to freely forgive was only hurting myself. Recognizing that I had absolutely no cure for this inability of mine to freely forgive, I gave it to God and He miraculously changed it – restoring to me the joy of my salvation!
You write of a time when you were disillusioned and disappointed with God. Could you tell us a little about that?
Like many, I had fallen into the trap of idealizing the concept of missionary life as being on a higher plane. As reality inevitably struck and the illusion fell away, it seemed to me that God had let me down since He was the Only One who could make things like I thought they should be. Fortunately for me, instead of this experience leading me away from Him, as sometimes seems to happen, it caused me to delve even more deeply into His Word, giving me, I believe, a Lifeline into His Heart for the nations.
You write of living in so many places in the book. Is there one particular place that is particularly special to you, and if so, why?
Well, the most special place to me on earth is the USA, the place God sovereignly placed me by birth, the place I love the most. I struggle greatly with those who were likewise privileged to be born in the USA and yet complain against it as no longer being a great nation. That said, each of the places I have lived are very special to me in unique ways and I feel richly blessed by each and every place I have lived. Along with that, I hold a deep respect for each person that I have been privileged to meet along the way, all of them created in the image of God.
In the book, you use the word “Beauty” to describe God. It’s a wonderful way to describe God. What were your thoughts in using that particular term?
Primarily, it was that early experience at the first window of my life – being hopelessly stuck in the snow in the absolute stillness of a dark starry night. As the Beauty overwhelmed me, I completely forgot myself. It was as though nothing existed but The Beauty. In the stillness, I could only interpret this Beauty as being God Himself. Going forward in life, everything beautiful reminded me of God – His creation, diverse people of all nations, harmonious relationships – all that was meant to be. In contrast, all else seems an ugly distortion of what was intended to be.
You write a lot about your children in the book. How are they doing today (vocations, location, family)?
Cherith lives at Rockaway Beach, NYC. Her passion is expressed as an artist, but her day job is in marketing mutual funds for Lord Abbett. Tobin and Leslie live in Washington, D.C. Tobin works for a government contractor, scheduling overseas construction. Leslie works as a consultant, specializing in evaluations of public health programs. Lizzie also lives in D.C. and is an officer for the United States Citizen and Immigrations Services.
You write that the best is yet to come. What are you and Harrison doing now and are there any plans for the future?
Indeed, the best is yet to come, but it has not arrived yet! Harrison is a city bus driver in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois and I am experientially observing public education by serving as a K-12 substitute teacher in the Bloomington/Normal schools. No plans for the future. Only Beauty knows!
What did the Lord teach you during the time in Liberia and the Ebola crisis?
During my time in Liberia, including the Ebola crisis, the Lord solidly reaffirmed to me that He is indeed the Lord. He is the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; He is the LORD, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7) He also reinforced to me a truth that is repeated many times in Scripture – that He will not share His glory with anyone else at all.
Finally, what would you like your readers to come away with from the book?
I would like my readers to come away from my book knowing that God IS, that He is Good, that His Intentions for us are for good and not for ill, and that, in creating us in His image, He purposely made us with choice – to let us decide our ultimate destiny.
Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts with us Pam.
Thanks so much for asking, Bill!!