The untold side of Missions
Tonight was a painful reminder that life back home is moving on…without me.
When I graduated college and decided to pursue my start-up full time I knew this moment would come. My ethical, affordable clothing company involves women in unreached people groups, which automatically puts me out of the country for the better part of each year. And being away means I miss out on a lot. I miss out on my friends getting significant others. I miss out on my sister getting engaged. I miss out on dropping my brother off at the airport for his first trip out of the country, and I miss out on being there to pick him up when he gets back to hear about all of his cool adventures. Being a few thousand miles away means missing out on weddings and wedding planning. It means not being there when friends are pregnant or babies are born. I miss out on my mom’s birthday and celebrating Father’s day with my dad.
I watch as the time passes and my friends grow closer together and farther away from me…not by anyone’s fault, but simply because keeping in touch when wifi is spotty or the time gap is huge is rather impossible. And the few conversations you’re able to have are never long enough or deep enough to adequately explain all the important things that have happened since the last time you connected…slowly and surely nearly all of my relationships have changed.
Meanwhile I’m in a totally different place getting used to the food and culture and language and trying desperately to make friends in this country as well. Indeed, some of my favorite memories here revolve around doing “normal friend things” (like watching a movie or eating dinner) with Dominicans. Sitting in the movie theater tonight with five Dominican friends and one Colombian friend is one of those memories. Yet as we laughed and joked and laughed a little more, one thought constantly lingered in the back of my mind: you’re leaving in two weeks.
You see, in two weeks I will hop on an airplane and head back home, where I’ll land for a month or two before heading to a completely different country in an entirely new part of the world with different food to eat, languages to learn and friends to be made. And as that occurs, I’ll likely notice the same trend once again. Slowly but surely, as much as I hate it, the friends I’ve made here will begin to drift away. Sure, they will remain apart of my life, but they will no longer be the people I see day in and day out. I won’t get spontaneous texts about a movie night and there will be no more lunch dates or random adventures.
I knew this; way ahead of time I knew this, but that doesn’t lessen the sting you feel when it actually comes to pass.
When days are easy and I’m able to hire women and teach them new skills and tell them about their worth and value in Christ, then, dare I say, these relational sacrifices are worth it? When I see the light bulb go off in my artists’ heads as they finally understand something – a sewing technique or better yet, the Gospel – I remember the passion and the motive for leaving in the first place. In those moments I often fall before the Lord in overwhelming gratitude, thanking Him for allowing me to be apart of this, rather than working a 9-5 desk job that I hate, as is the plight of so many other recent college graduates.
But what happens when none of that happens? When I’m here for four weeks without doing anything related to my business? When buying fabric and choosing thread and hiring women and making things and sharing the Gospel, literally everything, is an uphill battle? What happens when I have a really bad day at work, or when employees don’t show up or when I get yelled at? Then what?
What do you do when you so desperately want everyone around you to know of the love, grace, forgiveness, value and worth Christ offers, but no matter how much you practice and prepare ahead of time, there is always a wide and tall language barrier between you and the person you want to share with, ending in the conversation being nothing more then surface level ideas.
There is only so much passion, perseverance, determination, optimism and sheer will power in the world to keep a person going then.
Very, very quickly I have come to the end of myself as I have laid down my rights, my life, to follow the call of Christ. Friends, let me warn you, surrendering all you are for all of Jesus is no easy task. Run from the person who tries to tell you otherwise. Luke 9:57-62 says,
And they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Following Jesus often means foregoing rights or thoughts or desires you have. Sometimes it means sacrificing your home (v. 58). Other times it means relational sacrifices (v. 60-61). Again I say, following Christ is not easy. There is no room for indecisive discipleship (v. 62).
But there is nothing in this world that compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing and following Christ (Phil 3:8). He is worthy.
So what do you do when tough days like today pop up, and oh they will, when they linger around for weeks and weeks on end, when you so desperately want to give up, pack up and go home, when you cannot muster up enough strength on your own to get out of bed?
Here’s a few things that helped me today:
1. Do not feel like being a good devoted follower of Christ means always acting like all is okay. You do not need to ignore the painful reality, never talking about it with your Good Father. In the Garden at Gethsemane, when Jesus knew He was about to be betrayed, He didn’t put on a smile and act like everything was okay. He didn’t just talk to His Father about the good things. Instead, He cried out to His Father in agony, His sweat like drops of blood. Often for me, simply pouring out all I’m thinking to the Lord does wonders. It’s okay to say God, I know in my head you’re worth all of this but today I don’t feel like You are…or whatever your version may look like. God is a big, big guy, He can handle it.
2. Ask for God’s help. After you have poured out your heart to the Lord, ask Him to remind you of how worthy He truly is. Ask Him to give you the strength you need to be faithful to Christ and your calling and your ministry. Colossians 1:28-29 says, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” Notice Paul doesn’t contend with his own strength, but with that of Christ’s. You know that no power in you can make someone believe in the Gospel, it requires the work of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t rely on our own strength for that part of our ministry, why do we (I) always try to rely on our strength for this? Having been here multiple times, I promise there will always come days when you do not have enough strength in you to muster up the perseverance you need to keep going. I also promise that God desires to give you the strength you require, you need only ask (Isa 40:29); He is faithful.
3. Know you’re not alone. We have a high a priest that is able to sympathize with everything, who was tempted but was without sin. Because of this, we can approach God’s throne confidently in our time of need, trusting in Him to provide the grace and mercy each situation requires (Hebrews 4:15-16). He understands.
4. Take time to rest. This is the one thing I have the hardest time doing. It’s very easy to feel like you are taking away from ministry if you take time out to rest. Do not believe that lie. Luke 5:16 points out that Jesus withdrew to pray by himself, as was his custom. He made it a habit of spending time resting with the Father. If Jesus did it, who are we to say we don’t need to? Find the thing that’s restful for you and make a habit of doing it regularly. Take a drive, go to the mountains, sit on your back porch, take a bubble bath, go for a run, whatever it is you need to do, do it. I have two friends who always encourage me to do this and I’m so thankful for the needed reminder. If you’re like me and have a hard time resting on your own, find friends who will keep you accountable and help remind you to do so.
5. Do not rely on your feelings. People constantly say, “follow your heart!” but the Bible tells us our heart is deceptive (Jer 17:9) There will be days when you don’t feel like following Christ, when you don’t feel like doing ministry, when you feel like Jesus isn’t worth it or everyone’s left you. On those days you have to constantly remind yourself of truth. Have a list of Bible verses you can pull out and look at; ones like Matthew 28:19, Hebrews 4:15-16, James 4:8, and 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Friends, here’s the untold side of missions…