Sketched VII, Day 13
I’m an M….
as the sending company prefers to call us to protect our security.
Whatever ideas you hold of those who share the precious gospel across the globe, lay them aside for a few moments. My story likely will not match up with your ideas.
If you’re tempted to quit reading, I’m asking you to pause and pray.
Pray for Ms who are walking through struggles, pray for endurance, and pray for God to faithfully bring about His glory.
My husband and I felt the call to the field while on a two-week trip to Russia and was confirmed again when we traveled to Zambia, Africa. On our second trip, a little orphaned boy ran up and told me in English, “I am a Christian now!”.
God was at work and we were excited to join Him as full-time Ms!
God quickly brought us a buyer for our house and provided us sufficient income as we transplanted to seminary. As excited as we were to study God’s Word deeply, extended family struggles and the enjoyment of our previous ministry roles had us questioning at points, “Maybe we shouldn’t go?”.
But we remembered our call, and God continuously asked my husband in prayer time,
“Are you willing to serve Me anywhere?”.
Off To Training!
Finally, we had enough seminary hours to go to the field! We were eager to learn and tired of waiting; surely God would move us into productive ministry soon.
Training was exhausting!
There was much to learn about culture, barriers, languages, security, and strategy. Additionally, we had physical training because Americans don’t use their own two feet for transport nearly as much as the rest of the world! We pressed on, encouraged by others who were walking the same process, as well as by our home churches.
The farther into training we moved, the more concerns brewed in my head.
We attended a Spanish speaking church, but we didn’t speak Spanish yet.
Feeling connected to the church and others was difficult, as we could neither encourage nor minister in their language. Everyday, we were to practice turning ordinary conversations towards spiritual things, but try as I might, talking with strangers on the bus or in a store was so difficult for me!
I felt I was already failing as an M and we hadn’t even finished training!
Finally, it was time for our first field placement! We would attend a foreign language program in Columbia. At last, we would be learning our new language, be able to speak with people, and form relationships! We praised God for His goodness!
He indeed showed us His goodness!
Our mentors placed us in a great church where we were befriended and cared for. We were “adopted” by a ministry-loving family who invited us to minister with them in a village outside of Bogota, Columbia. There, we helped with the monthly children’s program by teaching kids the Bible. After only 6 months, I reached the required level of Spanish and was turned loose to work with a local company team while my husband continued classes.
I was excited and anxious because I knew my level of Spanish wouldn’t sustain a deep conversation with constructions like, “if you were to choose to follow Christ, how would your life change?” Even my ability to converse in present tense was filled with grammatical mistakes and vocabulary black holes. I would often talk “around” a word until someone had pity and gave me the actual word. This was a difficult process, but I had un-believing friends on campus who helped me.
I tried using these opportunities to turn conversations to Christ and was met with tolerance, but they really just wanted to work on the English structure assignments they needed for class.
Before long, and with several ministry ups and downs, our formal language learning was over and it was time to move to Chile!
On The Ground
In Chile, we met and connected with our teammates for our day jobs. At every turn, God continued asking my husband if we were willing to serve Him anywhere.
We were ready with our yes, even if it meant IT work (Information Technology).
Which is exactly where we landed.
Each day, we worked in an IT office and connected with local ministries in the evenings. This was the same thing we had done in the States, so I told myself we were still serving God, even though it wasn’t my passion. As a former deaf teacher, I had no experience as a help desk technician and was constantly being stretched. Helping the Ms fix technology issues was challenging!
We found a great little church, but I was hesitant to connect, as we were only there for 4 months. Within that time, we received word that my friend from Colombia had brain cancer. She died shortly after, and I grieved her loss as well as the ministry vision she’d carried for that area, as it seemed to die with her. I started asking God why and was honestly mad He had taken her, but there was no time to process as we were moving again.
In Peru, we set up house with our own furniture for the first time since beginning our M journey; we were building a home! We started looking for a church and built relationships with company coworkers. Lima was close to the ocean and my soul felt lifted by starring out at its vast beauty. I wanted to make friends, but was guarded. We were here for only one year before returning for a Stateside assignment.
Meeting local people was difficult as our work schedules conflicted with theirs. I continued working to convince myself our IT work was enough, while praying God would open “real” ministry opportunities in His time.
….was a flurry of activity.
My husband’s mom was undergoing chemo and we had churches and family to visit, while most of my time was spent studying a 900-page book on Mac computers to better help the Ms.
Change was happening in our team as well. Our long-term career teammates had a series of family tragedies and returned home, while our short-term teammates’ time ended. Additionally, another family would retire in 9 months.
I focused on studying and gaining IT skills, but also enjoyed knitting hats for my new granddaughter. We stayed in an M house, but weren’t close to either our Nebraska home or our seminary’s church, so again, we were without friendships.
With a stinging blow, we discovered our last remaining teammates would not be returning to the field. With no one left in Peru, we packed our suitcases and moved to Chile. Someone needed to man the technology equipment.
I started spiraling into a dark place, perpetually asking God why.
Why did You take my friend who was full of light, life, and loved You?!
Why did you allow hardship for our teammates so they couldn’t return?
Why did You give us a home in Peru only to have us return to Chile?
I was also angry at the company.
They wouldn’t give us permanent assignments in Chile, so we were left as sojourners while our belongings were stored in Peru. At the same time, the company opened a voluntary retirement where literally thousands of years of experience left the field. With our IT jobs, we saw every resignation come through.
I became more upset with God.
Where are You?
All these co-laborers answered Your call! Now You send them home!
You’ve given me a ministry to lead, but the women only care about crafting while tolerating the reading of Your Word.
We returned to our church in Chile and they loved on us,
supported us, and showed us community.
They cared for us.
When they asked, how are you?
They expected a story and a real answer.
How could I explain my feelings?
I was supposed to me the M, sent to them to encourage and build the church.
True community was just beginning to blossom inside of friendships when visa issues began. Chilean passport control noticed how often we’d left and returned on tourist visas. We were only permitted one final tourist stay, which led the company to move us to England. My husband was now manager over the field technology Ms, which necessitated him living in a neutral time zone. Waking at 2 and 3AM to talk to his guys didn’t work so well.
With a new plan in place, we visited Peru, sold our belongings, and were off to England. I finally convinced my husband to get my little dog, and we started building a new home as God continued working on my heart.
He gave us a community of believers with a strong outreach ministry.
He allowed me to start a Bible study where over 50 women were attending and growing.
He led the pastor to connect us with Alpha, an outreach to the unchurched. From that ministry, a small group launched in our home.
We were studying and growing in community all while doing our IT work.
God had heard my cry!
I was being used and restored!
Learning His Heart
Difficulty is never over, however, and when England decided to kick out migrant workers, we were forced to leave. We were moved to the US awaiting visa approval for the Czech Republic, which would be our new home.
It was a whirlwind summer of visits, work, and embassy and paperwork runs. We had a furnished house from the company on the east coast, far from family and friends.
Again, I asked why.
Finally, everything had seemed to come together in Peru.
But that was on the outside, God knew my heart.
He was wooing me to understand that service to Him, no matter how good,
was not His goal.
It would never be about what ministry looked like.
It would always be about my heart choosing to trust Him regardless of circumstances.
He is able to accomplish the work with or without me,
what He wants most is me to present with Him.
While in England, we read the story of a man who talked to God.
God cleaned up his heart, making it His home.
Then God told the man He would meet him every day in his study.
For a while, they had a great relationship and fellowshipped every morning, but slowly the man got busy and time slipped away. One morning, he saw the Lord in his study and asked what he was doing there. “Waiting for you”, the Lord replied.
In training, it was emphasized that the most important thing we could do was abide in the Lord, but He had slipped from my first place.
God wanted me to see that He was doing the work. Period.
I could join Him, but I must wait, trust, and abide in Him, knowing all glory is His alone.
If you hear nothing else, take this in!
Above any work you do, service you perform, or suffering you endure, abide in Him!
You may not understand how He is working, and may not enjoy His process,
but trust His heart. He is working all things for your good and His glory!
As a second take away, remember Ms (and pastors and leaders in your local church) are people just like you who struggle with circumstances, pain, and sorrow.
They may need an invitation to be transparent!
They may be grieving, lonely, hurting, questioning, or even angry. They need your prayers as a community of Christ. Let them know they are not forgotten, and you are their friend.
Listen to their stories, even if they are long, focusing on far-away-events you may never personally experience. Through your compassionate listening, you can help them process!
My journey as an M has been full of sweetness and sadness,
but know this: I praise God for the work He continues to do in and through me.
As a final request, join me in praying for the Czech Republic that they will come to know our God in all His goodness. Pray the Bible study I am involved with will grow and that someday I will be able to speak Czech and share Christ in that language.
For His Glory!
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