Few things rock my world more than hearing a good sermon on missions and reading a good missionary biography. Both enlarge my vision of the greatness of God – He’s Lord of the nations! – and His mission for us on earth – to tell others of His greatness displayed in the “happiest news” ever (that’s Ruby’s description of the gospel). Recently, God has been giving my vision some needed expansion.
Although some might not agree, our pastor in college used to say, “The best pastors are would-be missionaries who are frustrated because they got left behind.” He encouraged men preparing for ministry to pursue missions first. So that’s what we did. We traveled a few hours down to Ohio for a meeting regarding taking the gospel into the Middle East. Matt attended a roundtable discussion on creative inroads to China. He spent one summer in Australia and a few weeks in Africa. At one point, we did survey trips to downtown Chicago, planning to plant a church in that urban, multi-ethnic context. But with all of the seeking out of opportunities and eagerness to pack our bags and go, for now, God has chosen to keep us in a situation not so different from the one in which we grew up. Of course, we want to be where He wants us, but I think we’d both say it’s a bit frustrating…in a good way; the way our previous pastor meant.
Hearing Matt preach on missions back in November revealed this fact, as his missions-loving heart was laid bare. He challenged our congregation from Hebrews 13:3 about caring for those suffering for the gospel as if we were suffering ourselves. He asked if what we’re doing as a church looks even close to what that verse advocates. Needless to say, the message was convicting. And, as only the Holy Spirit applying the Word to hearts can give, there seems to be fruit that is remaining.
Just over two months have passed now, and how am I doing serving those who have been sent? Are they out of sight, out of mind? Or am I mutually feeling their woes, bearing their pains, and sharing their joys?
God has brought a few resources across my path that have given me some fresh ways of seeking to serve them better.
1) This post and video gave me a concrete idea of some things they might need and advice on shipping to other countries (remember though, shipping into some areas isn’t preferred or possible). I don’t always know what their needs are and hate sending open-ended inquiries to them. (“Do you need anything?” type questions makes it awkward for them to respond specifically.) Now I have an idea of what might be helpful and can offer specific things, giving them the freedom to elaborate accordingly.
2) Another helpful resource I’ve drawn from is this list. It’s intended to help kids grow in their love for missions, but could be helpful for anyone!
3) No doubt though, the best way I can serve our missionaries is through prayer. Specific prayer. Do I even know enough about them to pray specifically? Do I pay attention to the answers to prayer and requests they take time to convey in their prayer letters/e-mail updates? Have I found out a little about the area where they serve so I can pray for them more knowledgeably?
I just finished reading a passionately written missionary autobiography by David Sitton called Reckless Abandon. I love the very practical advice his wife gives to help us pray for missionaries:
When people ask me how to pray for missionaries, I tell them they need to be remembered daily, because these kinds of stresses are everyday realities. Pray for the big things: that the gospel will advance through their efforts; that they will be sustained through loneliness; that the Lord will provide financial partnerships; and that He will protect them from illness and those who would do them harm. But also remember to pray for the everyday things: transportation to the market, strength to do tasks such as washing clothes and making meals, finding correct boundaries in relation to possessions and privacy, and enduring the stress of long periods of separation. Pray for the Lord to sustain their relationship with Him and with one another. And, particularly, pray for their children. (64-65, emphasis mine)
I’m thankful to God for my “frustrated” missions-loving husband/pastor who has helped keep expanding my vision of Him. Lord willing, those who’ve left us behind are more encouraged in their gospel service in both tangible and intangible ways.