I woke early this morning before anyone else. Rain was falling softly on the roof but soon changed its tune to a stronger beat. Sheets of rain began to batter the house, trees, and I wondered how things were faring at the property we just moved our work to over the weekend. Pictures filled my mind: mud, damage to the tent we’re using, roads that were too waterlogged to pass…
We’re lifelong missionaries, that in and of itself is strange to most people. I still feel it is strange from time to time to think about God calling me to distant places to accomplish something for Him. Who am I to have been chosen except someone who was crazy enough to say yes? I’m quite ordinary and can even be introverted at times. I am not the right “pedigree” for ministry (no one in my close family has ever been in ministry full time), and all that I had going for me was a God Who loved me. When His call came to be a missionary in Africa, I accepted without hesitation thinking God would do something amazing – I never thought that I would be the one to change.
It’s been said of missionaries, rightly or wrongly, that they change the places they serve. This can be for good or bad depending on the mission. Personally, I believe in a Gospel that touches people in whatever culture they are in and only enhances the beauty of the people. As such, I have dedicated my life to learning languages and customs, cultures, anything and everything that would help me better communicate the Gospel to those I’m serving. I’m not to change them to what I feel is comfortable for me. Rather, I change to better communicate with them. This is indeed a challenge but has become second nature to my husband and I. We also understand that God created cultures to reflect His amazing nature and He only demands changes in culture that go cross grain to His culture. This truth holds true the world over; as believers none of us are here permanently anyway and our true passport comes from a land that is not of this world (see Hebrews 11).
It’s uncomfortable, changing. Over the years I’ve adapted to change, come to expect it, I’ve even come to embrace it, as I know the end result will be good. The process is unpleasant, though, and there’s no way to get through it except to go through it. When I first moved overseas, I had no idea that as a female my role would go back in time 100 years. Women on the continent of Africa are generally considered to be property that is owned upon marriage. Before marriage, girls are at home helping care for the family. This is changing some in the larger cities but Africa has a long way to go to reach even a fraction of the development in women’s rights that the rest of the developed world enjoys. I wasn’t prepared for the strict rules for dress, makeup, hair, even speaking to men. My role was radically changed and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it and I resisted it internally for a long time. “How unfair is this?” I would whisper to myself.
Maintaining a bad attitude for a long time is exhausting and after a few months of my grumbling and complaining, I began to release the “unfairness” of my situation to God. I remember exactly when I began to change in this direction. We were living in Zaire at the time (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and had gone to a service at a local church where my husband was going to preach the morning’s message. There were no chairs in the building (at least they had a building), we sat on large stones and cement blocks. The floor was sandy and it was hot (sounds like the inside of our tent now!). Sweat was dripping off my forehead as I struggled to get my 2-year-old son to stop playing in the sand. We had already faced a few health challenges with our child and I wasn’t keen for him to get sick again. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something flying around the building. As it turned out, it was a small bat but no one seemed concerned about it so I decided to act as if it didn’t bother me, which was far from the truth.
Finally, my little guy fell asleep on my lap and the service carried on for quite some time. Internally, I was tired, externally, I was tired, and spiritually I was exhausted. While we had attended language school and I was slowly coming to grips with the new language, it was a slow and tedious process. I missed worship in English, I missed services that weren’t 3 hours long, and I missed air conditioning…
That morning as a chorus was led, I recognised the words and tried to sing along, it was my first real attempt at worshipping in a language not my own. My eyes closed as I lifted my one free hand and began to worship from my heart. I understood that this moment was holy. I finally understood that these people and all they go through during their lifetimes: tragedy, poverty, death of loved ones, civil unrest, hurt the heart of the Father and they were precious to Him. To serve them is to serve Him and there wasn’t anything from that point that was too great for Him to ask of me.
Much debate has taken place in recent times about whether “going” to the nations is viable. I do understand why that argument can be made; with all of the troubles taking place in what were the traditional “sending” countries causes people to be a bit more introspective. This is only natural and right. I don’t believe God would have us ignore what’s going on at home, but at the same time, neither do I believe that He would have us ignore what’s happening around the world. The scriptures are clear; they haven’t changed with the evolving crises around the world. Jesus said in Mark 16:15 LB “And then he told them, “You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.”
As a missionary, my job is to work myself out of a job, which I’ve done alongside my husband over and over again planting churches and community outreaches and leaving them in the hands of national believers working alongside us. It gives me great joy to see them fulfill all that is in their hearts and to go farther than we ever did – so we can keep going to tell the news to everyone, everywhere.
My everywhere right now is here in Blantyre, Malawi, in the rain, under the tent, with a sandy floor, at early Morning Prayer. Praying for the people of the city, praying for leaders to help, praying for a move of God, praying for a building soon as I’m not quite sure how long the tent will hold up under the rains!
So where is your everywhere? Anywhere you are. God calls all of us differently and our only task is to be faithful to Him where we are and make sure those around us know about this Good News. Tell them, tell everyone in your everywhere.