There are many things I don’t understand about how the Lord works in my life and the things He allows. Among those many things, I do not understand why the Lord has seen fit to have me (us) go through this process of language and culture adjustment… AGAIN. Well, here we are, though- starting again in this process and seeking God with how to get through it well.
The reality of unexpectedly changing fields and the difficulty of that is something we continue to face. I am not sharing this with any amount of regret for coming to Mexico (we like Mexico and the people) and we are not remotely considering throwing in the towel. I am also not sharing for any kind of a pity party, I am just being honest about how this transition has gone in order to help those of you who pray for us to know better how to pray and Lord willing, continue to stand with us in ministry.
When you are first time missionaries, you arrive on the field with a fresh vigor, an optimism that feels like it could conquer anything and a very intense energy to “DO THIS”(!) and not let anything beat you. We had that new energy when we arrived in Papua New Guinea. It didn’t mean things weren’t very challenging (they were) and it didn’t mean we didn’t work hard (we did) but our mind set was just different- we were new to full time ministry and we had not experienced the reality of the challenges we would face and the spiritual battle waiting for us as ministers.
We are not new missionaries anymore. 🙂 Even though we are still relatively young we have been through the “wringer” and we now know intimately well how difficult things can be. Unexpectedly transitioning fields has been challenging in many ways and during this time it feels like the Lord has called us to a different kind of perseverance than we have engaged in before.
For the years we studied and learned how to adjust in PNG, I was so eager for the pay off. This process of being a student of a new culture and language was a means to an end in a way, it was a necessary thing that was hard but would be worth it. It was amazing and wonderful to reap the reward of our efforts, to enjoy relationships being built, understand more and not feel like everything was so very difficult. We were laying the foundation of what we needed to minister full time. We were gaining ground or so it felt like.
We finished the national language and were close to finishing our second language. We bit the bullet time and time again, we put in the hours, we stuck to it and the light was beginning to show at the end of the tunnel (for the Tigak language). The Lord was really good and blessed us with spiritual fruit that was undeserved and wonderful relationships that deepened in spite of the fact that we were not done with the Tigak language.
Whether we chose it or planned it (we did neither) the Lord allowed what happened in PNG. He allowed our family to be uprooted and sent to another country. Now we are here in Mexico and the Lord is allowing us to go through this adjustment again. I still grieve the loss of our home and ministry in PNG. I grieve the loss of my plans, my expectations and what I thought God had for us. I still feel broken. With all my soul I want to, and NEED to trust Him in this!
It may come as a surprise to you but I do not particularly love to be humbled repeatedly. 🙂 This process of assimilation into another culture is humbling. ;D Don’t get me wrong, I love people; I love to be able to understand them and communicate freely and with ease. I don’t, on the other hand, think it feels awesome to be relationally uncomfortable. Brace yourself, even I, (an outgoing people lover-in my own culture) don’t always FEEL like putting myself out there and risking my humiliation when I misunderstand things being said, have to pause for what seems like a minute to replay whatever I just heard in my head and try to comprehend it. (Remember what I was saying above? Been there. Done that!) This is hard!
I am so weak it is ridiculous and the longer I live this cross-cultural life the more I am aware of it. This transition to a new field of ministry has once again brought my weakness and frailty right to the surface and I don’t like seeing it! I don’t like feeling it! This is where Christ meets me, just as He has countless times before. Right in my weakness and blubbering mess. He has the strength I totally lack and He has the grace to assure me that He loves me and is not giving up on me even though I hurt and feel like a big baby. 🙂
Tom and I were talking about Moses the other day and Tom was pointing out the multiple attempts Moses made to get God to change His mind about using him in Exodus 3-4. First Moses tried to conjure up a problem with the Egyptians not knowing who sent him, next he used his speech as an excuse, then as if in desperation he flat out begs God to just choose someone else! I can’t help but laugh because I can relate! How often do I wish that God’s plan wasn’t to use me to do this difficult thing! I feels like too much and I am tired.
But God was with Moses and He helped him. As I am fully aware of my own weakness I can accept Gods offer of His strength to continue on. The Lord is totally present with us during this time. I know He is teaching me and changing me. I can feel Him stretching me and challenging my wrong thinking. The Holy Spirit stirs up questions I have to answer with honesty. He gently and lovingly casts light on the struggles I have with my attitude and my perspective. I am challenged to lay aside my feelings of having “earned” the right to just be able to do full time ministry right now at a fluent level of language in our host culture (instead of having to be a learner again in a new place). I know The Holy Spirit is helping me to identify my wrong expectations of how all this would go… and will continue to go.
I want to gather my energy for ministry from the truth of who God is and what He desires to do in the world. I am encouraged to consider everything that He is, rather than everything I lack in. When I think on myself I might as well just curl up and die but when I think on Him there is hope and motivation. He is the worthy sacrificial lamb who laid down His life to give everyone who would believe in Him the free gift of eternal life. So, what was it I was wailing about again? 🙂No matter what a missionaries situation, whether they have had to change fields, or are sticking it out in the same field as they started out in, ministry in challenging. It can be hard to stay.
As you think of missionaries to pray for this week and in the weeks to follow, I want to ask you to pray for us and for all the other missionaries you know in this way. Please pray that we would have energy motivated by the power and grace of our Savior and love for Him to keep doing what we are doing. Pray that we would stand strong in what we know. That we would be energized by the grace that we have personally received from Christ and that we would allow that to change our perspectives and motivate us to stick it out.
There is a spiritual battle raging for souls and the enemy would like nothing better than to discourage and eliminate ministers of the gospel! He will use whatever He can do accomplish that goal.
Thankfully we have the most powerful Ally to do the most important job there is, sharing the good news of salvation to those who have not had the chance to hear it before! Christ is building His church all over the world because it is His very heart beat to bring people into a perfect and everlasting relationship with Himself. No matter the difficulties and even in spite of my own weakness, it is a great privilege to be involved in this!