Here I am, starting all over again. I’m a mom of 4 (my youngest is 9), a grandmother of 1 (soon to be 2) and I’m still keeping the pace of a much younger me when we began planting churches in our early 20s. There’s a lot that goes into moving from country to country, sometimes continent to continent, to plant churches. Yes, it is very exciting to see a something born from nothing; our church here in Blantyre, Malawi, is barely a year old and I see the shadows of a great church forming from the humblest of beginnings.
Our “facility” is not really a facility. When we first started meeting, we met at our home on the front porch. Later, we rented a place to pitch our tent at a local school. Once God miraculously provided us with a piece of land, it was truly miraculous; we moved the tent to our land and began to settle. While we have yet to see any real development on the property, you can see the outlines of the foundation for a security wall fence and underneath our tent there are regular church activities taking place. The church is growing not only numerically but also spiritually; I can sense some roots going down and people growing stronger in their faith. For me to be even a small part in this eternal miracle is a great honor; I don’t take it lightly that God would allow me to see this happen over and over again when many never see a new church born this way ever in their lifetimes.
That being said, I do get “relocation fatigue” from time to time. Honestly, it’s not easy picking up and starting from the beginning every few years when the church we’ve planted and raised becomes mature enough for us to go and start another one. As the excitement and honeymoon phase of the church plant gives way to the bare knuckles work of growing the church, I begin wondering how much longer I have to enjoy where I find myself working. If I’m not careful, I can pull myself away to keep from feeling too hurt when it is time to hand over the work to the national sons and daughters God gives us to take over. We are, after all, missionaries, and our job is to work ourselves out of a job, right?
That reality doesn’t make leaving when the work is done any easier. Indeed, that knowledge helps us as we set things in order but when you pour your life into a work and then have to leave it – it leaves a mark. Those marks, those scars, are the marks we bear as a result of growing spiritual children. It’s a process that mimics growing our natural children. My first three children are now grown and I bear the familiar marks of motherhood: dark circles under my eyes, graying hair, a few wrinkles, stretch marks, and lots of dental work! Now that they are grown and on their own, I am overwhelmingly proud – but they’ve left me, and that has also left a scar. That scar is not a physical one, but one that I bear in my heart. It’s an ache that doesn’t go away, but accompanying the ache is a great pride that they are productive adults on their own that love God and their families. Releasing our churches is like watching our grown children navigate the world – it gives us great reason for joy as well as great reason for tears.
We are still in the season of heavy plowing and pushing away great piles of dirt to lay deep foundations that will hold this church, hopefully, for many generations to come. Yet, somewhere in the deeper recedes of my soul I find myself wondering if, after a lifetime of farewells, I have the stamina to keep saying goodbye. Goodbye to family, friends, and churches – but what is the alternative when so many are waiting to hear hello?
“It’s time to shake it off, then, have a cup of coffee, and suck it up buttercup,” I say to myself. I’ve learned when it feels like I can’t take another step, I simply put my foot out and step again. That’s when life becomes truly powerful because there’s none of my power left.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NKJ “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
So suck it up buttercup and take that step. You know you can’t do it alone, that’s why now by His grace you can. Someone is waiting for you to say hello.